GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Legislators from Brown County are calling on Governor Tony Evers to distribute federal funds to the county to support its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-08) and State Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) released statements Monday, saying:
“While every county has been working to respond to COVID-19 in real-time, Brown County has been uniquely tasked with addressing the effects of the pandemic in their region with the highest rate of cases in the state,” said Senator Cowles. “Thankfully, they have collectively stepped up to the challenge, and have managed to provide a rapid and substantial response, but this hasn’t come without cost. While other local governments with sizable outbreaks have received direct aid to assist in their ability to respond, Brown County has been left to pick up the tab on their own, hindering their ability to create a more robust response and potentially leading to impacts for other critical governmental functions. It’s my hope that the Governor can quickly work with us to provide certainty that Brown County is provided with the financial flexibility they need to combat COVID-19.”
“Brown County has responded well to its recent surge of Coronavirus cases, but its response has come at a significant cost,” said Rep. Gallagher. “The CARES Act provided Wisconsin with more than $2 billion to help counties and local governments that need assistance paying for virus-related expenses, and it’s critical that Governor Evers makes these funds immediately available to our community. The Governor has a responsibility to aid areas of need — both large and small — and I urge him to provide Brown County with the resources it’s eligible for so our local leaders can continue to respond effectively to this public health crisis.”
Wisconsin received about $2,258 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funds are meant to assist state and local governments in their response and recovery efforts with the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gallagher and Cowles. The funds were distributed in late April – Wisconsin received about $1.998 billion – the remaining roughly $260 million distributed between three local governments – Dane and Milwaukee Counties and the City of Milwaukee, which were some of the hardest hit areas.
As of Monday, Brown County has the second-highest confirmed total coronavirus case total, trailing Milwaukee County by less than 3,000 total cases. And, according to Gallagher and Cowles, Brown County received no direct aid from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Senator Cowles says he has been in frequent contact with Brown County officials to determine how the state can bolster their efforts in response to COVID-19. After sending an initial letter on April 24 to the Governor requesting aid, Senator Cowles spoke with Chief of Staff Maggie Gau within days. At their request, he sent a follow-up letter on Friday, May 8, with a more detailed request primarily focusing around the state filling the 25 percent local match requirements for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance. Over the weekend, Governor Evers responded to this letter, but failed to commit monetary assistance to Brown County with funding provided through the CARES Act, according to Cowles.
On March 27, the CARES Act passed the House with Congressman Gallagher’s support. This legislation included funding for state and local coronavirus response efforts. Gallagher has participated in a number of teletown halls with local health and business leaders, including WI DHS Secretary and Deputy Secretary. He adds that he engages daily with local officials and industry leaders impacted by the pandemic. He also is hosting a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donation drive with Brown County Public Health.
Gallagher and Cowles add that, while businesses begin to reopen and consumers regain the confidence to frequent their favorite shops, restaurants, bars, and other local establishments, residents should remember to maintain social distancing and utilize other guidelines recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Wisconsin Safety Council to do your part to control the spread of COVID-19 in Northeast Wisconsin.