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The Network Effect
The Chamber has a virtual portal for employers to submit questions relating to COVID-19 and its impact on business. Responses are posted at madisonbiz.com/covid19faq.

Submit questions about face covering requirements, the Forward Dane reopening strategy, availability of assistance for your business and more by visiting Slido.com and entering the event code #ASK4BIZ (or simply click here to go directly to the page). Questions can also be submitted via email at ask@madisonbiz.com.


Good evening --

Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and our organizational efforts to inform and ensure an effective community response.

Today's highlights include a preview of this week's Lunch(UP)date, the new Public Health order impacting school reopening and a needed expansion of the Wisconsin Shares program.

PUBLIC HEALTH SCHOOL ORDER

Today (Aug. 24), a new Public Health Madison & Dane County order took effect requiring all county schools to begin the school year virtually for students in grades 3-12, closing them to in-person instruction. Grades K-2 may – but are not required to – conduct in-person instruction, though virtual learning options must still be made available in those cases.
 
As of Aug. 21, Dane County is averaging 42 COVID-19 cases per day. In order to consider reopening grades 3-5 for in-person instruction, Public Health guidelines state that Dane County must sustain at or below a 14-day average of 39 cases per day for four consecutive weeks. To consider reopening grades 6-12 for in-person instruction, Dane County must sustain at or below a 14-day average of 19 cases per day for four consecutive weeks. If Dane County’s average number of cases per day over a two-week period increases above 54, all schools could be closed to in-person instruction.
 
In addition, the new order incorporates aspects of the statewide mask requirement, including mandating face coverings at outdoor taverns and restaurants. It also updates some childcare requirements and makes additional clarifications.
 
The full order can be found here.

LUNCH(UP)DATE WITH DAMOND BOATWRIGHT

SSM Health Wisconsin Regional President Damond Boatwright will be our guest this Thursday, Aug. 27, for the next Lunch(UP)date, the Chamber's weekly program where you can take a break and enjoy lunch while staying connected, curious and informed.

During this week's program (presented by Perkins Coie), Boatwright will discuss the latest news and updates regarding our community's response to COVID-19 from the healthcare perspective.

You can submit in advance any questions you may have for Boatwright or the Chamber at ask@madisonbiz.com.

Register here.

WISCONSIN SHARES EXPANDED

Last week, the state Department of Child and Families (DCF) released a series of Back to School guidance documents, including updates to the Wisconsin Shares program, which provides subsidized assistance for families where parents are working.
 
For the upcoming school year, parents can receive Wisconsin Shares childcare authorizations during the day when school is delivered virtually and childcare is needed for parents to participate in their approved activity, while the program previously restricted eligible financial support to time periods outside of traditional classroom hours. Parents may receive authorizations even if they are working from home, but they must be participating in their approved activity during the times when care is needed.
 
The Chamber discussed this issue with Gov. Tony Evers during a recent Lunch(UP)date and advocated in follow-up communications for expanded eligibility to provide more flexibility for working parents. The changes announced by DCF will bolster the equilibrium between the education and safety of students and the economic health of their families while enhancing the state's ability to provide essential services including health care, government, education, utilities, food and transportation logistics.
 
For more information on Wisconsin Shares, click here.

VIRTUAL INDUSTRY MEETING RECAP

Last week, the Chamber hosted the latest in our Virtual Industry Meeting (VIM) series, as nonprofit leaders assessed their current needs and shared projections for the three phases of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak: relief, reopening and recovery.

Not-for-profit organizations have been stretched thin during this time with an increase in needs for their services and resources, particularly regarding affordable housing and rent assistance, as well as basic needs like food, diapers and hygiene products. Initially, many organizations transitioned largely to remote work, except for those that support essential services. However, organizations that support vulnerable populations have faced unique challenges in providing services while keeping people safe.
 
Contrary to initial expectations, many organizations have seen a greater decrease in volunteers than decrease in donations at this point, although several organizations noted that they are projecting revenue losses in 2021 and 2022. Additional challenges include providing needed services for the bilingual community, the mental health toll of the pandemic, and the isolation and lack of connection associated with the digital divide. A majority of participants received assistance through federal programs, though attendees agreed that public-private partnerships will be key to further recovery.

The Chamber has also convened lenders, developers, commercial property owners, manufacturers, hoteliers, retailers and leaders in health and wellness, legal and accounting services, education, child care, construction, design, insurance, technology, biotech, healthtech, arts, culture, entertainment and sports as part of our Virtual Industry Meeting series to help inform our advocacy. Please continue to share with us any policy ideas and recommendations.

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For a full archive of previously shared resources, visit madisonbiz.com/covid19.

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