Sunday, May 31, 2020

Don't buy the "lower number" spin. There are still record amounts of people out of work

As May ended, let's take another look at what is happening with new unemployment claims in the country. The headlines in the financial media talk about how this number has been going down in recent weeks.
In the week ending May 23, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 2,123,000, a decrease of 323,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 8,000 from 2,438,000 to 2,446,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,608,000, a decrease of 436,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 2,000 from 3,042,000 to 3,044,000.

At least the rises have stopped, but you're still talking more than 2 million people filing new claims, which is 3 times any week we had in the Great Recession. Just because it's less than what we've been seeing, it still doesn't mean that we aren't at Depression levels of filings.

But I've said the key stat to look at is continuing claims. At first glance, regular continuing claims also seemed to be going down at the end of May.
The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 14.5 percent for the week ending May 16, a decrease of 2.6 percentage points from the previous week's revised rate. The previous week's rate was revised down by 0.1 from 17.2 to 17.1 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending May 16 was 21,052,000, a decrease of 3,860,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 161,000 from 25,073,000 to 24,912,000. The 4-week moving average was 22,722,250, an increase of 760,250 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 40,250 from 22,002,250 to 21,962,000.

But there is an important context to have with this, as there are now millions of Americans receiving other types of unemployment claims outside of the regular state-based unemployment claims. One is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims, which give benefits to the self-employed and people in "gig economy" jobs where they are independent contractors. There also are Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims, which allow for people to get compensation beyond 13 weeks.

Those numbers have increased in the last couple of months, and it gives a fuller picture of how many people are collecting unemployment. While the number dropped a bit last week, it was still over 30 million compared to 1.7 million before the COVID-19 pandemic struck full-force in mid-March.

Now that states and businesses are gradually reopening, let's see if the continuing claims number keeps falling in June, and how much it falls over time. And which of these unemployment claim programs go down, and which doesn't.

But what does seem certain is that this week's May jobs report will see another significant jump in the number of people out of work, likely by several millions. And many of the tens of millions of losses will not be back for a long time, if ever.

The morning after some bad folks tried to vandlize my town

I'm angry at how a small group of punk kids and other outside agitators took attention away from hours of peaceful protests in my town against police brutality. Just the way that the right wing "divide and conquer" crowd likes it.

And it's not just in Madison that bad people from Wisconsin are using righteous protest as a shield to cause problems.

It's reminimiscent of the types of dopes who would wreck things during the Mifflin Street Block Party in the '90s and 2000s, most of whom weren't UW students. But I also know that my great city isn't going to let this stand, and sure enough, folks are already at work in repairing the damage.

Going ahead, keep your eyes and ears open, and be aware of people who seem to care more about causing trouble vs caring about our social and economic inequities. Especially if they look like these clowns.

Breaking stuff distracts from the destructive disparities and racism that got us into this mess, and the impunity that law enforcement and other powerful members of society are allowed to operate with. Don't let others have an excuse to avoid these issues.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

No accountability, no peace. Just the way that GOPs want it

With the rising anger in the country over the last week, I am reminded of this excellent series of tweets by Pro Publica writer Alec MacGinnis at the end of last year.

Now add "cops who kill Americans and don't get held to account." Also add in the corporations who took on massive debt in the late 2010s, got a huge tax cut from Trump/GOP, and then immediately got trillions in bailout money as soon as the economy tanked this March.

And certainly add in a president who illegally impounded hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, and held it as ransom for political favors, along with the too-numerous-to-count examples of using government to pad the pockets of himself, his family, and his donors. He was allowed to get away with it because GOP Senators like Ron Johnson are also hooked up with this crookedness, and allowing the president to avoid accountability allows them to avoid that same accountability.

Some people rightfully have had enough of this two-tier society, where the connected can do whatever they want while the rest of us have to battle just to stay stable. But as I've watched some of the fires and looting in the Twin Cities this week, my heart sank, as I knew it would give a reason for far too many would ignore the unacceptable inequalities that led to these awful outcomes.

But I also smelt a rat. It was so tactically wrong to vandalize and damage communities, that I immediately suspected it wasn't people who wanted justice for George Floyd. And sure enough, we're seeing Minnesota's public officials explicitly are saying today that there is ratfucking going on.

Planting right wing Wisconsinites in a crowd of protestors who were taking away people's rights? Why does this sound familiar?

Oh yeah, this phone call. Around the 4:30 mark.

This is who today's GOPs are, and they have lost the benefit of the doubt. Especially with Trump 11 points underwater in the polls and the GOP heading toward a big loss in November. Those guys absolutely would try to cause problems to make the public fearful, and lead enough weak white people to support Republicans out of resentment against those who back social justice.

House Democrats in both Minnesota and DC need to be having hearings identifying who these vandals are, and who's giving the order for them to travel to hotspots to cause violence and chaos. We also need to ID the politicians that are giving those vandals a wink and a nod. And we can't afford to wait until November to make the bad guys feel consequences for the mess of a country that they have left us in.

Be smart, and be watchful.

Friday, May 29, 2020

In April, US spending collapses, millions of jobs lost. And incomes are way up?

We got one of our largest non-job indicators of how far down the US economy dropped in April today, with the Income and Spending report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Personal income increased $1.97 trillion (10.5 percent) in April according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (tables 3 and 5). Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $2.13 trillion (12.9 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) decreased $1.89 trillion (13.6 percent).
Those are some crazy numbers. Americans got nearly $2 trillion in added income, but spent nearly $1.9 trillion less than they did in March. Let’s break down these two items separately.

First of all, in a month of unprecedented job loss, how did Americans get this massive amount of additional income as the amount of wages and salaries tanked? Mostly through the stimulus checks that went out from DC that month….and the unemployment that went to all of those newly jobless people.

Despite that increase in income, spending continued to collapse. The overall 2-month decline is staggering, a total of nearly $3 trillion on an annual basis. And while services continue to be the bulk of the consumption losses, it is noteworthy that we saw a reversal of March's increase in non-durable goods spending that happened as people stocked up on groceries and household items. So everything went down in April, with larger drops than March.

Digging into the stats further, you can see where grocery expenses fell back to their pre-COVID trend in February. You also can see that already-large March declines in spending on gasoline, autos, and clothing went further in the hole in April.

On the services side, housing, financial services and insurance spending has not subsidied, which belies how some industries aren't getting affected much at all.

On the flip side, look at how spending in the restaurant, hotel, and health care sectors have fallen apart as people stay home, and choose against having surgeries and other health services to lessen exposure to COVID-19.

The question going forward is twofold.

1. When does spending stop declining, and how much does it come back? Even if half of the losses in March and April come back over the next few months, we'd still be down nearly 10%. And a lot of businesses will not survive that level of lowered spending.

2. What happens if the stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment checks go away? You can see how that raised incomes in April, and likely kept a whole lot of people afloat. But they didn't spend that money, and if that source of income goes away without wages and salaries making up the difference, a lot of money is going to be taken out of the economy.

Which leads back to the problem in question 1. If incomes stay depressed, and spending stays depressed, how many of our millions of lost jobs actually come back in the last 8 months of 2020? Likely not as many as a lot of Wall Streeters want to believe.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Vos and Fitz throw garbage on unemployment to damage Evers, help corporates

As unemployment claims continue to pile up in Wisconsin (both paid and unpaid), Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos and Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald sent a letter to Governor Evers asking that the state's employers not have to pay higher taxes for unemployment benefits before they have to.
Act 185, signed into law on April 15, included a provision that required UI claims specifically related to the COVID-19 emergency not be charged to a contribution employer’s UI account for the remainder of 2020. Instead, the law required that these claims be charged to the balancing account, which is supported by interest on the UI Trust Fund and the solvency tax paid by employers. The purpose of this provision was to attempt to mitigate the huge tax increases that employers most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis would see as a result of the normal June 30 calculation. The employers who would see the largest tax hikes are the same employers whose businesses have been severely impacted and may struggle to keep their doors open even as the state begins reopening.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for the "hard-pressed" Wisconsin corporations who have been given tax break after tax break from Vos and Fitz for the last 9 years, but let's go to the summary of Act 185 (aka Wisconsin's "how Wisconsin chose to deal with CARES money and other COVID relief") and see what they're talking about.
Provide that if a claim or plan is related to a [Public Health Emergency], regular benefits for that claim for weeks occurring after March 12, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, not be charged to an employer as normally provided. Instead, under the provision, UI benefits for those weeks would be charged to either: (a) the balancing account of the UI trust fund, for claims attributable to contribution employers subject to regular unemployment payroll taxes; or (b) DWD's existing interest and penalties account,for claims attributable to reimbursable employers that are not subject to contribution requirements...

Require the Secretary of DWD, to the extent permitted under federal law, to seek advances to the state's UI trust fund from the federal government so as to allow Schedule D, the lowest unemployment tax rate schedule, to remain in effect through the end of calendar year 2021.

Under current law, some UI benefit payments are not charged to a specific employer but are instead charged to the balancing account. The state's UI balancing account is supported by the solvency tax paid by contribution employers and any interest earned on the state's UI trust fund balance. There are seven basic categories of benefit payments charged to the balancing account: 10% write-offs, quits, misconduct, substantial fault, continued employment, approved training, and second benefit year. In the past, there have been other benefit programs that have been charged to the balancing account, including in 2002 when state temporary supplemental benefits were charged to the account.

Reimbursable employers, including almost all governmental units and certain nonprofit organizations, finance unemployment claims on a reimbursement basis as they are filed by employees. The provision would make payment for such claims from a separate appropriation under DWD funded by certain UI interest and penalty revenues, if claims are determined to be related to the public health emergency.
Gee, now I know what else Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce was lobbying about beyond trying to keep first responders from getting workers comp if they caught COVID-19. Trying to move money around to allow their low tax rate for unemployment to last for another year, using interest gained from a UI fund balance that was inflated due to previous Walker/WisGOP moves to keep people from getting their benefits.

But it was this part of Vos and Fitz's "letter" that got me boiling.
It is our understanding that the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has chosen not to follow these provisions of Act 185. To date, the Department has not submitted rules or even a scope statement for rules to address these changes in the law. As a result of DWD’s decision not to follow the law, impacted employers will now face the huge tax increase the legislation sought to avoid when the June 30 calculation is made.
So Vos and Fitz are giving the "some are saying" routine, claiming that DWD is not following this law without offering any documented proof that they are failing to do so. Fellow State Rep/Tub of Goo Scott Krug was pulling the same "people are telling me" routine today.

Name the names of these companies, and show me the documents where DWD is giving this guidance. Or am I going to assume these WisGOPs are lying. I know the GOP is growing desperate as Trump falls further and further behind, but I wasn't counting on them going to the "outright lying" part of the campaign in late May.

Their statements should be viewed as talking points for GOP spokespeople to repeat on AM radio, in the hopes that "legitimate" Wisconsin media will then amplify their lie as they chase down the (non-)story (I see Fox 6 in Milwaukee has already fallen for it). It's right out of the Trump/Fox News playbook.

Let's be clear where we're at these days. The GOP president caused the mass unemployment by botching the response to COVID-19, leading to large-scale sickness, deaths, and business shutdowns. The WisGOP Legislature and the race-baiting GOP ex-Governor Walker put these barriers to receiving unemployment in place.

The deflection game and constant whining of WisGOP on unemployment has to be smashed back against, and I am fucking tired of these cynical, small-time grifters who clearly have no plan beyond complaining, and refuse to take any responsibility to clean up the problems they caused.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Upon further review, 2019 wasn't that great for jobs in the US

I talked about Wisconsin's 43rd place standing in the "gold standard" Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) last week, in a report that covered all of 2019. But I didn't look much at the overall US stats, and I want to thank The Progressive's Jud Lounsbury for reminding me to give that a gander.

That loss in manufacturing jobs for 2019 goes against what we had seen in the monthly US jobs reports, which claimed that the US added 64,000 jobs. This means that there are likely to be future downward revisions to 2019 job growth in that sector, and as you will see, overall job growth in 2019 was also overestimated.

I'll use the year-over-year percentage change to illustrate, to take out the distorted totals that you might see in seasonal adjustments.

Total job growth, 2019
Monthly reports +1.42%
QCEW year-over-year 1.17%

Private sector jobs growth, 2019
Monthly reports +1.53%
QCEW year-over-year +1.22%

That difference comes out to a reduction in total job growth of around 375,000 for 2019, and nearly 400,000 private sector jobs. That would end up being the smallest annual increase in jobs since 2010, and that was before we even knew what COVID-19 was.

This is the bigger point. The economy was maxing out and job growth was slowing last year. And Lounsbury's tweet notes that average wages rose by 3.5% in 2019...before inflation. So the average worker wasn't getting much of a boost from the tight labor market in 2019, there weren't as many new jobs, and in sectors such as mining and manufacturing, job growth was already falling.

So don't buy the spin that "COVID-19 stopped a booming economy." In fact, the US jobs market was already acting like one that was running out of steam with only a few people benefitting. Given how things fell apart so fast once COVID-19 broke out, to the point that we needed trillions in bailouts from the Feds and Congress (and likely need more in the future), it tells you just how tenuous our economic "growth" really was.

and why I believe it's going to be a long time before we come close to where we were at the end of 2019. Because the lack of wage and job growth meant there wasn't a lot of opportunity for everyday people to sock away money last year, and therefore there's no pent-up demand that's ready to be unlocked today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Fewer homes being built, fewer homes being sold. But home prices keep rising....for now

It's not surprising, but we found out last week that April had a huge decline in home-building. In addition, that Commerce Department report showed where the pipeline was going dry, as permits and starts had a much larger drop than completions.
Building Permits

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,074,000. This is 20.8 percent (±0.9 percent) below the revised March rate of 1,356,000 and is 19.2 percent (±0.9 percent) below the April 2019 rate of 1,330,000. Single-family authorizations in April were at a rate of 669,000; this is 24.3 percent (±1.6 percent) below the revised March figure of 884,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 373,000 in April.

Housing Starts

Privately-owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000. This is 30.2 percent (±11.0 percent) below the revised March estimate of 1,276,000 and is 29.7 percent (±8.1 percent) below the April 2019 rate of 1,267,000. Single-family housing starts in April were at a rate of 650,000; this is 25.4 percent (±9.6 percent) below the revised March figure of 871,000. The April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 234,000.

Housing Completions

Privately-owned housing completions in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,176,000. This is 8.1 percent (±13.5 percent)* below the revised March estimate of 1,279,000 and is 11.8 percent (±9.9 percent) below the April 2019 rate of 1,334,000. Single-family housing completions in April were at a rate of 865,000; this is 4.9 percent (±16.7 percent)* below the revised March rate of 910,000. The April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 304,000.
The drop in starts speeds a decline that we were seeing from the start of 2020, with starts down a seasonally-adjusted 45% since January.

I can’t think this gets much better for May, as few homes were on the market for April, and the spike in unemployment has to be holding back people from wanting to build a new house.
After adjusting for seasonal factors, 409,100 homes sold nationwide last month, a 24% decline year-over-year. Compared to March, sales were down 23%, the largest fall since Redfin started collecting the data in January 2012.

San Francisco (-53.9%), Detroit (-46.8%) and New York (-45.8%) were among the metros that saw the largest decline in home sales year over year, according to the report. Only two metro areas saw year-over-year sales growth in April: home sales in Minneapolis were up 3.5%, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, had a 0.6% increase.

The number of homes available for sale across the U.S. fell 24.5% year-over-year during April to 1.66 million. It was the biggest drop on record and the eighth straight month of declines, according to Redfin. None of the 85 largest metros tracked by Redfin posted a year-over-year increase in the number of active listings.
But here's what's odd. Despite the lack of sales and the lack of desire , home prices have continued to rise in America at a solid rate.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city price index posted a 3.9% year-over-year gain in March, up from 3.5% the previous month. On a monthly basis, the index increased 0.5% between February and March.

Because of the two-month lag in the data included in the price index, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the housing market were not yet fully reflected in the data.
It's also interesting that even though few homes are being started, there wasn't a similar drop in new home sales in April. New home sales actually went up, albeit at the lower levels it fell to in March.
Sales of new single-family houses in April 2020 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 623,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 0.6 percent (±14.9 percent)* above the revised March rate of 619,000, but is 6.2 percent (±17.1 percent)* below the April 2019 estimate of 664,000.
Both the new homes sale report and the Federal Housing Finance Agency release on home price changes of Q1 2020 showed that prices of homes were still jumping. What’s neat about the FHFA report is that it looks at the typical home sale in all 50 states, and in Wisconsin, this report said housing prices rose by 6.3% between March 2019 and March 2020. That placed the state 24th in the US, and above the national average of 5.7%.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association tells a similar story, saying that the median price of the few homes that sold in Wisconsin in April increased by nearly 10% compared to April 2019. In addition, median prices are up more than 8% year-to-date.

That rise in home values is also why I can see where Wisconsin home owners getting crunched this Fall, because home values will be assessed at these higher levels, if/when they come out (in Madison, we're delayed until mid-June due to COVID-19 shutdowns and adjustments). Given that many local governments won't be getting the sales tax revenue they're used to seeing, property taxes will likely be higher for many Wisconsinites this Fall in a time when many people will likely be stretched to make ends meet. And due to the GOP Tax Scam, many Wisconsinites won't be able to write off those higher property taxes on their taxes in early 2021 (unless the GOPs in the Senate sign off on the SALT Cap repeal that is part of the House's latest stimulus bill).

Which makes me wonder if/when the housing market follows the rest of the economy downward, especially as unemployment persists but enhanced unemployment benefits and stabilization checks go away. If April's lack of housing starts means the losses in that sector will multiply down the road, and the recent plummet in manufacturing lasts longer than 2 months, then you can see where we get a cascading effect similar to what we saw in the mid-late 2000s.

A combination of Bubbly home prices with the loss of middle-class jobs has wrecked the housing market before, and I don’t see why a version of that scenario isn’t in play as Summer comes around.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Safer at Home was controlling COVID-19 in Wisconsin. Will the coming weeks reverse that?

As our Holiday weekend wraps up, I wanted to look at how Wisconsin was managing the COVID-19 pandemic, now that we are 12 days away from the Wisconsin Supreme Court's 4-3 decision to strike down the state's Safer at Home laws. The two largest cities of Milwaukee and Madison are still under restrictions (at least through tomorrow), but other places were throwing that caution to the wind.

It's almost like the Evers Administration had a reason behind waiting until after Memorial Day to lift Safer at Home. Almost.

What's extra concerning about this (beyond the selfishness that bleeds through these pictures) is that Walworth County had one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the state before this weekend. In fact, Walworth County has had more new cases of COVID-19 than Dane County in 4 of the last 6 weeks, despite Dane County having 425,000 more people.

We've also seen the state's number of new cases rise in the last 4 weeks, with more than 9,000 new diagnoses.

But most of that statewide increase isn't a reflection of the outbreak growing in May, as much as it is that more cases are being diagnosed due to more Wisconsinites being tested. According to the Department of Health Services, the number of COVID-19 tests in Wisconsin has more than tripled compared to what we were doing at the end of April.

This means that the rate of positive tests among Wisconsinites has fallen in each of the last 4 weeks, and at half the rate that we had in early April, as the pandemic was starting to take hold.

The other good sign is that despite more people testing positive for COVID-19, we have seen the amount of deaths stay at the same levels after a one-week bump in late April.

This indicates that the state is more likely catching infections early on, and that things were trending in the right direction when it came to controlling the pandemic in the state (outside of a few breakout areas). As this graphic shows, Wisconsin had a lower incidence of infections than all other Midwestern states going into this weekend.

But now we find out if the progress that we'd been making in staying clean gets reversed due to the decisions of morons in towns that are "opened up". And if in the next 3 weeks we see a spike in cases or, God forbid, deaths, then the Republican legislators and "justices" that allowed it to happen need to be held responsible.

It's sort of a sick experiment to see what happens in the state between now and June 15, and to use it as a guide for how much we can reopen vs how much it endangers people. For the sake of the state's public health, the GOPs better hope they are right, and any damage is small. Especially because Safer at Home had been working well in Wisconsin before it was struck down.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Spiking unemployment rates may not be telling full story in the US, and for the states

We know that we've seen the highest job loss since the Great Depression in America. But this recent article from Shahar Ziv in Forbes says
the unemployment may be much higher than the already-huge figure that's listed today.
The main reason why the 14.7 percent figure is underestimating the true rate of unemployment is a quirk in the BLS methodology. In gathering data for the unemployment survey, interviews are conducted and individuals are classified as either employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions. As Betsey Stevenson, who was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers as well as the Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, highlighted, there was incorrect classification of many individuals in April. “Interviewers were told to classify people who were employed [but] absent from work due to COVID-related reasons as temporarily unemployed. Many did this incorrectly —correcting for this error raises the unemployment rate to nearly 20%,” she explained.

To its credit, the BLS realized and called out this technical misclassification in its report explaining that, “to maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses.” The misclassification caused the BLS to understate the unemployment rate by roughly five percentage points, meaning the adjusted unemployment rate is really closer to 20%.
In looking at the state-by-state unemployment figures that came out on Friday, you can see that every state had significant jumps in their unemployment rates, but some had bigger increases than others.

You can see that Minnesota was an exception to this rule, as their unemployment rate rose to "only" 8.1%. And a trip to their workforce agency's website explains why.
In April about 76,294 people moved from being in the labor force - employed or unemployed - to being outside the labor force - neither employed or unemployed - resulting in a labor force participation rate of 67.6%, or 1.7 percentage points lower than in March (which itself fell 1.1 percentage points from February). This indicates that many people are choosing to drop out of the labor force during this period rather than hold a job or continue looking for work. This may include people on part-time work schedules or who haven’t worked recently but had been actively seeking employment in March....

“Employed but absent from work for other reasons”: The BLS national employment situation for April mentions that due to coding errors, many participants who were unemployed on temporary layoff were miss-categorized as “employed but absent from work”. As a result, the national unemployment rate should have been about five percentage points higher than the reported 14.7%. However, the CPS data for Minnesota did not reveal any unusual surge in the category of workers employed but absent from work.
By comparison, Wisconsin actually added to its labor force in April, going against a trend of a falling labor force over the last couple of years.

Wisconsin household survey, April 2020
Participation rate +0.2%
Labor force +6,700
Employed -334,300
Unemployed +341,000

If we had dropped 1.7% off of our participation rate like Minnesota did, that would have been another 88,000 people out of the work force, and our unemployment rate would have been 11.6% instead of 14.1%.

Which means that there is a lot of volatility with the unemployment numbers in these unprecedented times. Let's see whether Wisconsin gets dropouts of the work force in May because they aren't considered to be looking for work, or if Minnesota has their unemployment rate spike because respondents say they are.

Lots still to sort out, and given that millions of new unemployment claims continue to be filed, it seems likely that May will see even higher unemployment. But because of the subjective methods we use to ID whether someone is looking for work, it's not certain that we'll get the full story of just how bad things are until revised data comes in later.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

More on Wisconsin's unemployment issues

Wanted to give a follow-up to my post yesterday on WisGOP's duplicity in whining about Wisconsinites not being able to get unemployment benefits...after they're the ones that made it harder to get to those benefits.

Former UW-Madison Professor Pamela Herd noted my post (disclosure: Prof. Herd taught a class of mine in grad school, and we know each other), and added some important context to it. Herd and fellow professor/husband Don Moynihan wrote an award-winning book in late 2018 on how government agencies are increasingly use red tape to keep people from benefits.

Herd adds that few states "succeded" more than Wisconsin in trying to keep people from getting unemployment in 2010s.

Even worse, Herd notes that Wisconsin government has turned "fraud investigations" into a money-making scheme in recent years.

Unemployment lawyer Victor Forberger has additional insight on his blog as to why there are delays after the Wisconsin DWD receives the paperwork. Some of this is due to the unprecedented number of claims, but also because each document needs to be scanned and checked, which takes up large amounts of time.
My sources within the Department indicate that the Department is weeks behind on processing the documents claimants and employers are submitting by fax or by mail. And, by processing, I mean simply scanning the documents into the Department’s computer system and associating those scanned documents with the correct claimant and employer.
Note: as of mid-April: UCB-23 forms (weekly wage confirmation notices) were being scanned from 4/6/20 with ~16,000 in the queue; UCB-16 forms (separation notices) were being scanned form 3/30/20 with ~54,000 in the queue; ~40 mail bins dating from 4/10/20 had yet to have their contents even opened. ....
And, it appears that the Department is ignoring this backlog when deciding cases and scheduling hearings. I had a hearing on Monday, May 11th, in which there was only seven days notice. As a result, the documents I submitted in a letter dated May 5th were NOT available to the administrative law judge. Luckily, those documents were made available through other mechanisms during the hearing. But, if those other mechanisms had failed, the hearing would have had to be postponed until another several weeks had passed.

Claimants have also contacted me about their claims being denied for failing to provide requested documents. They did provide the requested documents on time, but the deadline passed without those documents being uploaded into the Department’s system. So, rather than account for this backlog, the adjudicator/investigator denied the claim because the requested documents were not yet available in the system and dinged the claimants for failing to respond on time.
Also, Forberger noted that there were significant delays in processing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims that go to "gig economy" workers and other professions that weren't covered by regular UI. The DWD says that they have received over 81,000 applications in the month that program has been up and running, but broadcast reports from this week indicate that few (if any) PUA checks have gone out to Wisconsinites.

But this is where the administrative burdens that Professor Herd mentions come in to play. Because DWD offices have to spend so much time making sure claims are legitimate and that the forms are filled out properly, it prevents unemployed Wisconsinites from getting their benefits in a timely fashion. Especially if they are filing new claims and there is no previous/recent record of them in the Unemployment system.

And let me note again that not only did WisGOPs vote to put those barriers into place, and have a bias toward turning down benefits instead of providing assistance, they also refused to add staff to DWD in case such an economic emergency would happen that would require a record number of applications to be pushed through in a short period of time. And now you're seeing the train-wreck results of this predictable form of "out of sight, out of mind" governance.

If WisGOP wants to fix this, there is nothing stopping John Nygren from calling a hearing as co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee and reallocating state funds to add positions to handle processing. But it's much easier for Johnny and the Assembly's Number 2 to pass the buck with tweets like this.

And GOP hack McCoshen gives away the real motivation behind WisGOP's sudden concern about services to the unemployed, with this spinning (and mixing) of poll numbers.

Look at that smirk from a guy whose whole adult life has been in politics. These people don't give a damn about better governance or stabilizing the tenuous situations of so many Wisconsinites. All they care about is scoring points with low-info voters. PATHETIC.

Friday, May 22, 2020

WisGOPs set up unemployment system to fail, then shift blame onto Evers for problems

If there's one thing I can't stand in this world, it's dishonesty and duplicity. And the WisGOPs are hitting new levels of dishonesty when it comes to Wisconsinites that are struggling to get the unemployment checks they are entitled to.

Let me start with Joint Finance Co-Chair John Nygren, who has spent much of this week shedding crocodile tears for laid-off Wisconsinites and the problems some are having in obtaining their benefits.

If only the Co-Chair of Wisconsin's Finance Committee could do something to better allocate resources to deal with this. If only....

But let's talk about that 2014 audit that Nygren references. I'll go to the site of Madison-based labor and employment attorney Victor Forberger, as he had this recap of the LAB audit relating to the problems referenced in the audit.
The report shows that from late-November 2013 through mid-January 2014 that more than 70% and 80% of all calls to the Department [of Workforce Development]'s initial claims phone line were blocked (see p.18 of the report). Furthermore, 50% to almost 90% of all calls to the inquiry phone line were blocked from July 2013 through mid-January 2014 (see p.19 of the report). That is a staggering collapse of the Department’s phone system.

At the January 2014 meeting of the Advisory Council, the Department explained this phone problem as a seasonal blip that was slightly more than expected because folks preferred the telephone to the on-line system:
Ms. Knutson asked the Council if there was any other business the Council would like to address. Mr. Gustafson referenced a recent story that aired in the Green Bay area related to the Unemployment Insurance claim telephone line experiencing back-ups. He asked how the department is handling this issue. Division Administrator Robert Rodriguez stated that currently the department is experiencing its typical peak season but due to a multitude of things this season has been more difficult. Mr. Rodriguez stated that the department received 220,000 calls last week. Mr. Rodriguez explained that the department cannot dictate how claimants use the system although online is recommended. It is, of course, the claimant’s choice but the department would like everyone who is able to use the online filing portal to use it, but understands that some people have limitations.

Mr. Gustafson stated there was not any real issue causing the increase in telephone calls such as something similar to the most recent recession, and he was worried that the story was misleading and painted the department in a bad light and it implied a much larger problem. Mr. Rodriguez stated that the department is scaled well for 46 or 47 weeks to meet demand but we have responded to the most recent influx by adding staff, which the department typically does during the seasonal peak, and has authorized additional overtime. Mr. Gustafson stated that the story did not ask the question how the department was reacting to the issue. Mr. Rodriguez stated that an individual having to call the department 20-40 times is not acceptable but reiterated that current numbers show that the issue is going away.
That LAB audit mentioned DWD was planning to put in a new online system to allow initial claims to be filed via the Internet and speed the process along. In a follow-up note in March 2015, the DWD said that no calls were being blocked, and claimed all they had to do was to reallocate the number of employees to handle calls at peak times.
In the fall of 2014, the Division instituted a rapid-response system in which division personnel, who do not work in the call centers but have robust knowledge of the UI claims system, could be called upon nearly instantaneously to answer calls during peak times.As noted in the audit report, nearly 200 non-call center employees were incorporated in this effort (the regular compliment of call center claims specialists is approximately 110). Thus, the Department roughly tripled its capacity without any additional hiring. When the call queues begin to fill, the system activates the appropriate number of additional employees needed to handle the demand.
2015 is an important year for this story. In April 2015, there were an average of less than 8,400 initial unemployment claims filed each week. In 2020, that number was between 6 and 12 time that amount.

At the same time, claimants and workers at the Wisconsin DWD had to do a lot more work for each claim. In 2015, Scott Walker had just been re-elected to a full 4-year term and the GOP State Legislature had sizable majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. So the pressure was now off to have the WisGOPs care about the needs of the public, and instead it was time to get "tough on welfare."

If you go into the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's rundown of the 2015-17 budget,there is a good list of the extra UI barriers put in place, which were conveniently timed to dog-whistle to GOP primary voters ahead of Walker's disastrous run for president in 2015. The first is the infamous plan to "pee in a cup for your benefits".
Require DWD to establish a program to test claimants who apply for regular unemployment benefits for the presence of controlled substances and, under the program, do all of the following: (a) establish a process to test claimants for the presence of controlled substances and adhere to any applicable federal requirements regarding drug testing, (b) create and provide a substance abuse treatment program for claimants who misuse controlled substances and specify criteria that a claimant must satisfy in order to be considered in full compliance with the program, (c) create a screening process for determining whether a claimant should be required to submit to a test for the presence of controlled substances, (d) create and GPR $500,000 conduct job skills assessments for claimants who misuse controlled substances and specify criteria that a claimant must satisfy in order to be considered in full compliance with the requirements of the assessment, and (e) promulgate rules identifying occupations for which drug testing is regularly conducted in the state.

When a claimant applies for regular benefits, require DWD to: (a) determine whether the claimant is an individual for whom suitable work is only available in an occupation that regularly conducts drug testing (an occupation identified by the federal Secretary of Labor) and, if so, conduct a screening on the claimant; (b) determine whether the claimant is an individual for whom suitable work is only available in an occupation for which drug testing is regularly conducted in this state (an occupation identified by DWD by rule) and, if so, conduct a screening on the claimant if a screening is not already required; and (c) if a screening indicates that the claimant should be required to submit to a test for the presence of controlled substances, require that the claimant submit to such a test.
Another bill would charge people who were found to have committed some type of fraud to pay back those benefits and be fined 40% on top of it (seems like quite a price, given that those people are UNEMPLOYED).
Under current law, a 15 percent surcharge (credited to the UI balancing account) is imposed on certain fraudulent overpayments made to claimants. This payment is in addition to a reduction of future benefits for acts of fraud by two, four, and eight times the weekly benefit rate, escalating with repeat offenses. A UI claimant commits fraud by providing false or inaccurate information to the Department when filing a claim for UI benefits in an effort to obtain monies to which they are not entitled. This bill would increase the penalty described above to a 40 percent surcharge on the benefit payments erroneously paid to the claimant beginning on the day after publication of the budget act.
Then Nygren and the rest of the WisGOP Legislature took it a step further, putting that extra 25% toward "program integrity" instead of upgrading technology or adding workers to DWD's call centers. On top of that move, the WisGOPs moved another $870,000 of federal money to program integrity over staffing and technology investments.

The WisGOPs also signed off on a Walker provision that would allow for DWD to figure out if a laid-off worker had declined "suitable work" after a 6-week period of unemployment. This requires staff to deal with this extra oversight, and also can be used to shove workers back into dangerous and/or underpaid jobs that they otherwise would never take, while passing up their chances of getting better work.

And in the 2017-19 budget, the Walker Administration and WisGOP decided not to replace $11 million of federal funding that was cut for unemployment administration, and reduced some jobs in the process. However, they thought this was a worthwhile use of DWD time and money.
Require DWD to collaborate with other agencies to prepare a report on the population overlap of families that receive public benefits and children who are absent from school for ten percent or more of the school year. The other agencies involved in the report would include the Departments of Children and Families, Health Services, and Public Instruction, and any other relevant programs or agencies the departments identify as appropriate. Require the report to be submitted on or before December 30, 2018, to the Governor and appropriate standing committees of the Legislature.
These extra barriers were done with a loss of positions, despite more paperwork and follow-up to digest. Which is what makes this statement by Assembly Number 2 Jim Steineke all the more shameless.

Oh, so Shrimpy now thinks we should just hand out the money and then try to take it back at a later point if it is no longer legit? That's sure different from what he was saying 5 years ago, when he and other WisGOPs in the State Legislature put on all of this red tape, because "those people" might be cheating.

The GOP barriers certainly seem to be a reason behind why its been so slow for some Wisconsinites to get their benefits. Just this week, there was an article in the Bradley-Foundation-linked Center Square site that mentioned the DWD's success in catching suspected fraudsters.
The state's Department of Workforce Development said it has caught just over 500 fraudulent claims.

"DWD has identified 342 unsuccessful attempts to access the system with a stolen Social Security number as of May 15," the agency said in a statement.

DWD also announced that it "flagged 171 claims as potential fraud with payments estimated to be around $26,000."

Wisconsin has paid out more than $1.1 billion in claims since mid-March, and has handled almost 1.5 million claims.
So I guess the Bradley Center Square spin is that the overworked DWD....isn't doing enough to fight fraud? And that they should waste more time doing it? They might want to tell Jim Steineke and John Nygren that.

But hey, if the WisGOPs want our unemployment system to become more efficient and concentrate on serving laid-off workers instead of using a lot of time and effort to block them from getting their benefits, I have one thing to say.

Of course there should be a demand for accountability when people are losing jobs at a record rate and not getting their benefits. And it is something that demands urgent action from both the Governor's Office and the Legislature.

But you broke it, WisGOP. You don't get to wash your hands of the problems that follow. You don't get to stamp your feet in the corner without coming up with any kind of solution to these problems (and no, inviting guests to whine next week at a dog-and-pony show presided by Steven nASS does not qualify as "action", guys).

That is PATHETIC stuff. But fitting of a party that cares more about scoring points in the AM radio Bubble than in doing anything that might make things better for Wisconsinites.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Record job losses for Wisconsin and the US in April. Far beyond what we've seen before

Much like with the weekly unemployment claims and monthly national job reports, I had a morbid interest in just how large the state of Wisconsin’s job losses were in April. And like the rest of the nation, the numbers were big.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary employment estimates for the month of April 2020. The data shows that Wisconsin lost 439,400 total non-farm and 385,900 private-sector jobs from March 2020 to April 2020. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate in April was 66.6 percent, and the state's unemployment rate was 14.1 percent, up from 3.1 percent in March 2020.
It also looks like more jobs were found to have been lost in March, as that number was revised down by nearly 19,000. Brutal, but befitting of a month where over 20.5 million jobs were lost nationwide.

The last two months of job losses in Wisconsin now total 465,300, with Wisconsin having fewer jobs than at any time since December 1994. That 465,000+ dwarfs the total job losses that happened in the other two recessions in the 21st Century, even though those declines happened over a much longer time period.

Wisconsin job losses, Recessions since 2000
November 2000 peak 2,841,300
Aug 2003 trough 2,759,300
Total job loss 82,100

Nov 2000 peak 2,841,300
Aug 2003 trough 2,759,300
Total job loss 82,100

June 2007 peak 2,888,100
Jan 2010 trough 2,710,300
Total job loss 177,800

And like much of America’s Wisconsin’s job losses were heavily concentrated in the service industries. In particular, the Leisure and Hospitality sectors of entertainment and dining/drinking got hammered.

Job losses, Wisconsin April 2020
Leisure and Hospitality -157,000 (-56.5% of March 2020 jobs)
Private Education/Health Services -55,500 (-11.9%)
Government -53,500 (-13.2%)
Manufacturing -40,800 (-8.4%)
Retail trade -39,300 (-13.2%)

As for the unemployment rate, the 14.1% rate was below the US rate of 14.7%, but Wisconsin is typically below the US unemployment rate. What's interesting here is that while the US labor participation rate plummeted, due to people being out of work but not looking for jobs, that didn't happen in Wisconsin. Our participation rate actually went up.

That's intriguing in 2 ways. The first is that the April survey took place before much of the CARES Act was put in effect in Wisconsin (because of WisGOP lollygagging), which included the $600 bonus payment for unemployment claims and removed the 1-week waiting period for benefits. I'd be interested in seeing if that effects our participation and unemployment rate. Likewise, will more people in the country start looking for work (or be counted as such), which would raise the unemployment rate even higher than the 80-year high that we have.

Given that most of the state was still under Safer at Home restrictions through the middle of this month and more cutbacks were announced after mid-April, it seems likely that May will feature more job losses and even higher unemployment for Wisconsin. Which puts us in unprecedented territory, and while you figure some jobs come back in the Summer and beyond, if we even get half of those 465,000 lost jobs back by the end of the year, it still would only put us back at where we were at the depths of the Great Recession in 2009.

That's a level of job loss and unused human resources that none of us could comprehend 3 months ago, but here we are. And given that it has taken Wisconsin several years to restore smaller amounts of job loss events in the 20th Century, it seems like it'll be a long road back to full employment in this place.

CBO and other economic reports show that a lower loss is STILL BAD

I want to take a second to discuss a common theme that I see in financial news these days. Somehow, we are to believe that “the worst is over” when it comes to our current COVID-19-induced recession. But this slant on economic stats ignores just how bad things really are, and will remain.

An example of this comes from a CBS Marketwatch article on Thursday that promotes a rise in the May IHS Markit’s manufacturing index for US companies.

But what does that “rise” in the index show? Merely that activity wasn’t falling as fast as it was in April. Things are still worse.
What happened: The survey found that 58% of firms reported a decrease in activity while only 15% reported an increase.

The new orders index increased 45 points to a reading of -25.7. The shipments indexed increased 44 points to -30.3. The employment index increased 31 points to -15.3.

Firms expect the current slump to last less than six months. The index for future activity rose 7 points to 49.7. Over 62% of firms expect increases in activity over the next six months, while 13% expect declines.
But again, that’s an increase from the historic depths we are in today. Things will still suck!

The IHS Markit report cited by CBS Marketwatch is more honest about this.
U.S. private sector firms reported a slightly slower rate of contraction of activity in May, as the economy began to reopen. That said, the fall in output was substantial, as both manufacturers and service providers indicated marked declines in client demand.

Adjusted for seasonal factors, the IHS Markit Flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index posted 36.4 in May, up from 27.0 in April, but nonetheless indicating the second-sharpest decline in business activity since the series began in late-2009.

I also note this paragraph in the CBS Marketwatch report, where the Federal Reserve’s New York region also showed that the “growth” would still leave us way behind where we were at the start of 2019. And because it literally couldn’t get worse.
Big picture: A similar survey conducted by the New York Fed said conditions remained dreary, rebounding to -48.5 in May from -78.2 in the prior month. The coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh heavily on manufacturing. The bounce in May in the regional surveys is due in part to firms saying that activity is steady at zero rather than declining sharply last month, economists said.
When the financial news claims the economy is “improving” from the record declines that we saw, you need to ask yourself “improving from where?” Tens of millions of Americans are likely to still be out of work for several months, a reality that was reiterated by the Congressional Budget Office in a report issued this week.
During the second quarter of 2020, the labor market is projected to see the steepest deterioration since the 1930s. The unemployment rate is expected to average 15 percent, up from less than 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019. That surge reflects projected reductions of almost 26 million in employment and about 8 million in the size of the labor force (see Table 3).

Labor market conditions are projected to gradually stabilize in the coming months and begin to improve more materially after the third quarter of this year. Business activity will recover as the degree of social distancing diminishes, leading to an increase in the demand for workers. Although less than at its peak in April, some degree of social distancing is still expected to persist through the third quarter of 2021, partially constraining business activity and the demand for workers. In addition, the expected pace of labor market recovery is dampened by the prospect that many businesses may not survive the earlier, extended period of revenue loss. In CBO’s projections, the unemployment rate declines after the third quarter and reaches 8.6 percent by the fourth quarter of 2021, which is about 5 percentage points higher than it was in the fourth quarter of 2019. Additionally, about 3 million fewer people are projected to be in the labor force by the fourth quarter of next year.

The sharp downturn in economic activity and the rapid deterioration in labor market conditions are expected to have severe negative effects—both immediately and potentially over the long term—on many workers, households, and communities. The job losses have been concentrated in service-providing industries with low average earnings, so low-income households may lose a large fraction of their labor income in the near term. (As a whole, those households had experienced accelerated economic gains in recent years.) Moreover, both the reduction in the number of people employed in 2020 and the persistence of high unemployment through 2021 may have a negative effect on the job prospects and earnings of younger generations that will be felt long into the future. For example, college graduates and others who enter the labor market now are expected to have substantially lower earnings initially than those who entered when economic conditions were stronger. Some of those effects will continue for years.
Likewise, the CBO reported that it expects GDP to still be below the levels that we had in March at the end of 2021.

And it's worth mentioning that job losses and our current recession had already started by March.

The CBO assumes there will be aid given to state and local governments in the second half of 2020 to avoid severe cutbacks at that level in 2021. But if Moscow Mitch and the Senate GOPs get their way, maybe that assistance won’t be coming. If so, this would likely make the recovery weaker in the next 18 months, and unemployment will likely be even higher than 8.6% in 18 months.

There’s still this mentality on Wall Street and in a lot of media that tries to indicate that things will soon return to the conditions that we had as 2020 began. But that’s simply not true. Not with COVID-19 (which will likely still be in people’s minds in 6 months, and it is very possible that we will under a second wave of infections), and not with the economy, which will likely still have double-digit unemployment without the added assistance that is being pumped out today.

I think most of us are still in shock from the scale of the economic decline of the last 10 weeks, and if you haven’t been laid off (or even if you have been), and you aren't taking a historical look at these stats, it probably hasn’t sunk in just how bad things are. People also don't understand that these depressed conditions are going to stay for a long while, and the reality won't take hold until people begin taking in the sights of permanent closings of businesses and foreclosed homes. It hasn't happened yet, but it sure seems like it's coming.

That’s when you’ll see people really freak out, and get dark. And it might lead to a reaction that goes well past the right-wing Astroturfers and dead-enders who think removing Safer-at-Home orders are all we need to return to normalcy. Except this will be anger for a legitimate reason, and hopefully it'll be targeted at the incompetent Trump Administration and the corporate greed that are the real reason that we currently have the highest unemployment since the 1930s.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

"Gold standard" jobs report shows Wisconsin had its worst year yet in 2019

Today had the release for 2019's year-end totals of the "gold standard" Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). And it completed an awful 2010s for Wisconsin, whose economic policy was dominated Scott Walker and a gerrymandered GOP Legislature after November 2010.

Wisconsin's rate of job growth started to decline in mid-2016, and has pretty much gone down since then, with the except of a Bubbly 6 months after the GOP Tax Scam was signed into law. But last year was a new depth, with barely more than 5,000 jobs added from December 2018 to December 2019, and we even slipped below 0 in November before a small rebound in the last month of 2019.

It completes a series of bad years since Walker and WisGOP gained power in Wisconsin state government. We've never been above 25th in the nation for job growth since 2010, been 32nd or worse in 8 of the last 9 years, and had our worst ranking yet in 2019, at 43rd. We do not have private sector figures from this report yet, but I'd imagine it isn't going to be much better.

And notice that high ranking in 2010. That's the one full year we had under Dem governor Jim Doyle and a Dem Legislature. Hmmm...

Along the same lines, I can't help but notice that Minnesota chose a Democratic governor in 2010, which blocked gerrymandering for the 2010s. This allowed for Dems to regain one or both houses of the Legislature for much of the 2010s.

At the end of 2010, Wisconsin had more than 87,300 more jobs than Minnesota did. Flash forward to the end of 2019, and Minnesota had more jobs than we did.

Put another way.....

Total jobs added, QCEW 2010-2019
Minnesota 330,103
Wisconsin 227,993
Difference 102,110

Today's QCEW report didn't have an industry breakdown, nor did most Wisconsin counties get broken down today. But the largest 7 counties in the state were accounted for, and that tells its own story. In particular, Dane County added more jobs than the state as a whole.

Jobs added, Wisconsin 2019
Dane County +7,446
REST OF WIS -2,367

Meanwhile, Milwaukee County lost 3,541 jobs in 2019. So maybe that whole "starve Milwaukee of resources" thing that WisGOP likes to do isn't such a great plan when it comes to having Wisconsin's economy do well.

This data sure seems to indicate that we could learn something by being more like Minnesota and Dane County, because that's what was working before the COVID-19 recession hammered everyone starting in March. And today's report is yet another blaring piece of evidence of just how much we have been held back during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. It needs to be ended ASAP, and it goes well beyond changing who is in the Governor's office.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

$1 billion in CARES heading to Wisconsin for supplies, local help, and more

Today we found out how much of the state's $2 billion in federal funding to deal with COVID-19 and the related economic fallout will be used. Governor Evers announced today that much of it will go toward testing, supplies and local aids.

It begins with using the money to give large amounts of test kits to several places.
COVID-19 test kits: Everyone who needs a test should receive a test. The state’s testing program will spend $202 million to provide COVID-19 test collection kits to Wisconsin hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, local public health departments, and others at no cost to ensure that everyone who needs a test receives a test.
There also is $75 million to pay for contact tracing efforts both at the state and local levels.
Of the $75 million, up to $50 million will be available to local and tribal public health departments to hire additionalstaff to perform disease investigation, contact tracing and monitoring. The remaining funds will go towards technology resources and hiring additional state staff to supplement local efforts to quickly and effectively conduct interviews.
The Evers plan also sets aside $150 million to buy PPE for frontline health care workers and local governments, and $40 million to purchase ventilators. Both seem to be intended to keep the burdens of this needed equipment from falling onto hospitals and local entities.

The rest of this chunk of federal dollars will help health care facilities and local governments prepare for future waves of COVID-19, and to repay the costs that state agencies have already taken on in dealing with this pandemic.
There is a great deal of concern that lifting of the Safer at Home may result in a surge of COVID-19 related patients. Additionally, there is uncertainty regarding the resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall. Approximately $445 million is being allocated to ensure Wisconsin hospital systems and communities are prepared to handle a surge of COVID19 patients over the summer and fall.

In addition to the SEOC programs described above, state agencies across Wisconsin have expended significant funds, approximately $200 million, in support of getting these emergency operations up and running and of providing important resources and assistance to local partners across the state.Additionally, state agencies have incurred direct costs associated with the operational impacts of COVID-19.
Hard to tell if there is a formula or earmark to decide how much each community may get, but it does look like a lot of this is going to be funneled down to the local levels for tangible supplies and aid.

It also looks like the Evers Administration is going to be sending out $175 million to K-12 schools as part of CARES aids to help pay for the costs of expanding online instruction and other modifications that have resulted due to COVID-19. Another $46 million in K-12 aid through CARES seems to be coming later, and seems to be intended to stabilize school finances with the looming collapse of available money at the local level. There also has been $51 million in CARES money approved and set aside to help Wisconsin child care centers in the last week, and there should be a few other details on the remaining federal assistance in the coming weeks.

So keep an eye on these announcements, particularly given that there seems to be building heat on whether federal money is getting taken out of DC and used to deal with the economic and social damage from COVID-19. And it seems like it'll go very fast once it gets to Wisconsin, meaning that the well runs dry by the end of this year. Which means that you'd hope these responses will diminish the need to spend big dollars for more aid and treatments in 2021, but obviously time will tell on that one.