Wisconsin COVID-19 Relief Bill Signed Into Law
Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday signed a comprehensive coronavirus relief bill that was overwhelming approved by the Legislature earlier in the week. The new law (2019 WI Act 185), which suspends the state’s one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits, also captures hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the bill was drafted as a reaction to the federal COVID-19 legislation recently passed by Congress.
“It combines aspects from the governor’s proposal with input from both parties of the Legislature. This legislation is important to the history of our state as we came together to respond to the crisis created by COVID-19,” he said in a statement.
While Gov. Evers and legislative leaders called the bipartisan legislation a step in the right direction, they hinted that additional legislation to address the pandemic may be needed in the future.
While the legislation does not include additional funding for WEDC to support businesses struggling with the COVID-19 economic fallout (which WEDA requested in a memo to policymakers last month), it does include language directing the Corporation to submit to the Legislature and governor – before June 30, 2020 – a report that includes a plan for providing support to Wisconsin’s major industries that have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, forest products, construction, retail and services.
Other provisions in the legislation include:
- PPP Tax Treatment – Updates the state tax code to conform with provisions of the federal CARES Act. This includes exempting the forgivable portion of a Paycheck Protection Program loan from state taxation.
- BCPL Loans – Authorizes the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to offer state trust fund loans to non-profit municipal utilities during the coronavirus emergency, and for up to 60 days after the emergency expires.
- Product Liability Exemptions – Exempts manufacturers, distributors and sellers of emergency medical supplies and equipment that donate or sell (at cost) their products in response to the COVID-19 crisis from civil liability associated with injury or death caused by those products.
- Property Tax Interest Payments – For property taxes payable in 2020, the legislation provides local communities with the ability to waive any interest charges and penalties for late payment.
- Unemployment Insurance Waiting Period – Waives the current one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits with respect to benefits that begin on or after March 12, 2020.
- Employer UI Accounts – Provides that unemployment insurance claims related to the COVID-19 emergency (claims occurring after March 12, 2020, and before December 31, 2020) will not be charged to an employer’s unemployment insurance account.
- Work Share Plan Requirements – Temporarily suspend, through December 31, 2020, certain requirements of voluntary work-share plans submitted by employers.