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Sunday, May 09, 2021
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The UW System will receive about $275 million from the American Rescue Plan. Debates remain about who should allocate federal funding coming to Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin to receive about $560 million for HEERF, among other federal relief funds

State and local government and educational institutions in Wisconsin are expected to receive $3.21 billion in funding from the federal government as part of the latest COVID-19 relief fund — the American Rescue Plan. UW System institutions are expected to receive about $275 million. 

The state is set to receive $8.7 billion in total, according to an estimate published by WisPolitics.com. Eighteen cities in the state are able to recieve $787.9 million, according to a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Madison is set to receive $49.2 million in funding.

The legislation also provides an additional $39.6 million for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III), of which $36 million is allocated to public and non-profit institutions. Wisconsin’s portion could total $560.17 million. 

The legislation requires higher education institutions to use at least half of the funds for emergency financial aid grants to students.

The American Council on Education estimates that UW System institutions will receive about $275 million, Wisconsin Technical Colleges will receive about $170 million and private nonprofit colleges will receive about $115 million. 

UW-Madison allocated all of its HEERF II funds as of March 18, and about 20% of the student population received HEERF II funding as of March 23. 

Students also support a student COVID-19 relief fund. In the ASM elections, 91% of voters favored the creation of a student relief fund, but the UW administration claims it violates policy.

Earlier this week, Republicans in the state legislature voted to give lawmakers control over the federal funding coming into the state, taking the power away from the Democratic governor. They referenced the legislature’s assistance in approving the distribution of relief during the recession in 2009, according to the AP.

Evers, however, is expected to veto the legislation. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Republicans might take it to court. Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said the legislation would allow for public input.

“Wisconsinites on the ground who are feeling the effects of the pandemic more than Madison bureaucrats deserve transparency and accountability when it comes to the billions of relief dollars coming to our state,” Steineke said. “The Truth in Spending Act is an opportunity to give the people a voice and ensure our state’s portion of federal aid is spent in the areas most important to our Wisconsin communities.”

Democrats in the state argue that there are dangers in handing over the power to the legislature. Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, said that it was a “prime example of Republican hypocrisy” as they decline to expand Medicaid

“Governor Evers provided swift and effective disbursement of federal aid during this pandemic to small businesses, health care workers, child care, broadband and more. If the Republican majority was in charge of distributing relief money, Wisconsinites would still be waiting. My message to the legislators in the majority party is simple: If you want to be governor you should run for it,” Hesselbein said.

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The federal funding will likely affect the state biennial budget process as Republicans plan to draft their own proposal. Last week, Republicans rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ $2.4 billion capital budget, waiting to see how federal money could play in. Wisconsin could receive about $188.7 million from the Capital Projects Fund.

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Annabella Rosciglione

state news writer

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