Earlier today, Governor Tony Evers released a 19-bill package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two hours later, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos unveiled Republican proposals to combat the pandemic.
The Governor’s proposed package would, among other things, suspend a one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance through 2021, allow healthcare workers to receive workers compensation if they become infected with COVID-19 and ban evictions through 2021.
The Governor teased the bills in a live, primetime address last Tuesday.
“As we’ve fought this virus since March, we’ve worked hard to support workers, families, farmers and businesses across our state,” Gov. Evers said. “In the coming days, I’ll be announcing a package of COVID-19 legislation that should be passed quickly to make sure we have the resources ready for those who need it.”
The prompt passage of the bills, however, is unlikely.
For starters, the Governor will need to get the package through a State Legislature hostile towards his previous public health orders. The Legislature hasn’t taken any formal action since April, when it met to pass a previous COVID-19 response bill.
In addition to that hurdle, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos unveiled Republican-recommended COVID-19 responses just a few hours after the Governor. Vos presented no formal bills, instead proposing a number of informal measures — with hopes to negotiate them into a new package with the Governor.
“We want to find ways to work together with Gov. Evers,” Vos told reporters today. “We think that some of his ideas are certainly workable and some are not. That’s the point of negotiations — we put out our best ideas, he puts out things he supports and we see where common ground can be found.”
One of Vos’ major proposals is to double the amount of contact tracers in Wisconsin.
Republicans are looking to achieve the bump in part by encouraging unemployment insurance recipients to work as contact tracers. Under that proposal, unemployed Wisconsinites would receive payment for their work as contact tracers in addition to their standard unemployment insurance.
A few weeks prior to the toppling of Safer at Home in May, Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced that they were working on their own response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the seven months between that proclamation and today’s announcement, around 2,600 Wisconsinites have died of COVID-19. The state’s Republicans have repeatedly challenged the Governor’s public health orders, opting to go through protracted legal battles instead of the much faster process of legislative action.
Vos largely brushed off reporter’s questions about negotiations between Republicans and the Governor over the past few months. He argues that all Wisconsinites care about is the result of the talks, not their anticipated timeline.
“Those are the things that the average person cares about, they don’t care about the machination of internal political arguments,” he said.
92 Wisconsin residents died of COVID-19 today, a near fifty percent increase over the previous one-day record of 66 set just last week.
(Photo: WORT News / Flickr)