Parisi asks Sen. Baldwin, Sen. Johnson for more CARES funds for Dane County

MADISON, Wis. — A Dane County leader is asking Wisconsin senators in a letter Friday for more coronavirus relief funds.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi sent a letter each to two U.S. senators — Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Ron Johnso –, requesting additional federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, funding.

In the letter, Parisi said the Tenant Resource Center that is administering the county’s eviction prevention program is close to exhausting the $10 million the county received, and that more money will soon be needed to continue preventing evictions.

He said the eviction moratorium protections announced this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help prevent some evictions until the end of the year, but more money will be needed.

“Without additional funding for rental assistance, rental debts will continue to accumulate putting financial pressures on renters and landlords alike,” Parisi said.

Dane County and its partners have used CARES Act funding to prevent small businesses from closing, stabilize housing for residents in need and provide food for those who are unable to make ends meet due to job losses from the pandemic.

Parisi said other programs that received CARES money will need another round of federal funding too. While Parisi didn’t ask for a particular amount of funding, he explained how some of the funding has been used so far.

Nearly 3,000 small businesses have been helped since May through a $10.8 million small business support program.

“Small businesses from Black Earth to Bellville and Mazomanie to Marshall make up the backbone of our local economy and they took advantage of this program to maintain their businesses with many telling us they would have closed without it,” Parisi wrote. “Providing additional support means they will be able to keep their employees and be ready to drive our economy back to normal when it is safe.”

According to the letter, a $6 million program through the Second Harvest Food Bank to helped feed families and supported Dane County food producers and farmers. He said that in July, 61% of the food Second Harvest ordered came from Dane County farmers. Second Harvest ordered $900,000 worth of food that month to distribute to their 57 food distribution partners around the county.

“They are seeing a dramatic increase in need as the pandemic continues to erode family income and savings, which makes additional federal funding necessary to maintain this critical resource for families while the pandemic continues to disrupt employment for so many,” Parisi said.

Parisi also said additional money is also needed to keep the COVID-19 testing site at the Alliant Energy Center open.

“This pandemic is far from over and the only way forward is for the federal government to provide additional support for programs like these and more funding for testing and tracing,” he wrote. “Without additional funding to continue the regional testing site at the Alliant Energy Center, Dane and the surrounding counties will not be able to provide the testing needed to find and isolate those carrying the virus so we can get ahead of it before flu season hits. This could devastate the entire regional economy.”

Public Health of Madison and Dane County said Friday that there have been a total of 151,550 people tested through the Alliant Energy Center site since it opened in May.

In an Aug. 4 news release, Baldwin said she’d heard from local officials in Wisconsin that there is a need for more funding from the federal government to continue supporting essential workers and services during the pandemic. She urged Congress  at that time “to take action with bold legislation that includes additional resources to give local governments in Wisconsin the relief they need to move forward.”

A spokesperson for Senator Baldwin’s office said in an email Friday that Baldwin “supports more federal funding for localities in Wisconsin, and has been pushing for it in the Senate for months since the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act several months ago.”

In a July 23 news release on his website, Johnson’s office had said Congress shouldn’t authorize more coronavirus relief money until it’s known how the funds were spent and redirects any unused relief funds.