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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also outlined his priorities Tuesday but did not introduce specific bills. Republicans have repeatedly challenged Evers’ response to the pandemic and the legislature has not passed relief since April.

Evers proposes new COVID-19 relief bills amid record single-day death total

Gov. Tony Evers released a legislation package Tuesday intended to alleviate the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin as the state recorded its highest single-day death toll.

Republicans did not indicate that they were on board with Evers’ $541 million plan. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other Assembly GOP leaders put forward a “package of ideas” at a press conference Tuesday, but did not release any specific bill proposals. 

If adopted, Evers’ bill would prohibit evictions and foreclosures through 2021, waive student report card and assessment requirements for the remainder of the school year, ensure Wisconsinites have coverage for COVID-19 related medical costs, suspend the one-week waiting period on unemployment benefits through 2021 and ensure access to affordable telehealth care, among other provisions.

Vos outlined his priorities Tuesday afternoon shortly after Evers’ bill was released. He expressed support for piloting at-home testing, increasing contact tracers and providing additional assistance for healthcare providers and businesses.

However, Republicans did not prepare any specific bills regarding Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response. 

Vos’ response comes six months after the Legislature claimed they had already drafted additional COVID-19 response legislation in their lawsuit to overturn Evers’ “Safer at Home” order, in which they said they were “ready, willing, and able” to work with the Department of Health Services to craft such legislation.

Vos called for bipartisanship in a statement before the announcement, saying he and his colleagues “look forward to discussing these legislative initiatives with our Senate colleagues and the governor.” 

Still, it is unclear if the Senate is on the same page. Incoming Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I haven't seen anything that I’m real excited about.” 

No COVID-19 relief legislation has been passed since April, which is the last time the Republican-led legislature held a session lasting longer than one minute.

Since April, over 300,000 new COVID-19 cases and 2,400 new COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in Wisconsin. On Tuesday alone, the DHS reported 92 new deaths, shattering the previous record of 66 daily deaths on Nov. 10. 

Sixty-five Wisconsin counties remain in the “critically high” case activity level category designated by DHS, and only four counties are seeing a shrinking trajectory. 

Only 11 percent of the state’s staffed hospital beds are available as of Tuesday night, with 19 percent of COVID patients in the ICU. Twenty-three patients are currently at the state’s alternative care facility

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