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Economic resources for employees, businesses during COVID-19 crisis

nbrahm@conleynet.com 262-513-2651

WAUKESHA — Since the U.S. Department of Labor announced new guidance on unemployment on March 12, states have new flexibilities with unemployment insurance programs and Wisconsin workers can follow online steps to file for unemployment benefits. Federal law now allows states to pay benefits where an employer temporarily stops operations and where employees cannot go to work due to COVID-19, an individual is quarantined and expects to return to work once it’s over and if an individual leaves employment because of the risk of exposure or risk for a family member. Federal law doesn’t require an employee to quit to receive benefits.

Filing for unemployment

Gov. Tony Evers waived the requirement for those claiming unemployment to have at least four weekly work searches during the COVID19 emergency. Evers is also asking the Wisconsin Legislature to waive the one-week waiting period, the time between when you are unemployed and when you are eligible for benefits. The Department of Workforce Development is encouraging people to go online for quick service to file for unemployment benefits due to heavy call volume and longer-than-normal wait times.

To apply for benefits and read updated information, you can visit the DWD website at dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/.

The two step process includes applying online and filing your weekly claim.

The week you become unemployed, you should not wait to file. For instructional videos and more information on how to apply, you can visit www.dwd.wisconsin.gov/uib en/apply.

After applying, you will need to file a claim certification each week you would like to receive benefits, which includes a series of questions.

For the claimant handbook, which includes instructions and information on benefits and how to protect your rights under the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Law, you can visit ded.wiscosnin.gov/uiben/ha ndbook.

Employers can find information on payment options at dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax/pa yments. Online services can be found at dwd.wisconsin.gov/uitax. The handbook for employers can be found at dwd.wisconsin. gov/ui201.

Business resources

Resources are available for the business community in Waukesha County that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Waukesha County Business Alliance and the Waukesha County Center for Growth have a dedicated website with COVID-19 business- related information at www.waukesha.org/coronavirus- business-resources.

Waukesha County Business Alliance President and CEO Suzanne Kelley strongly encourages businesses to check out the website and to call their phone number at 262-542-4249 with questions. A staff member will return the call within one hour.

“Our team is working hard to connect businesses to the resources they need to deal with in this crisis and to get answers to the many questions they have,” Kelley said. “We’re also gathering policy recommendations from our members regarding what state and federal programs, legislation and regulatory changes would be most helpful to get them through this challenging situation.”

Kelley said they have been participating in briefings with the White House, the Governor’s Office and other organizations.

“We’re reaching out to businesses one by one to find out what they need and how we can help,” Kelley said.

Kelley said she believes there will be more and more resources made available every day to help businesses.

“I think Congress is looking at passing a third phase of assistance for business, negotiating that over the weekend and hopefully passing something next week,” Kelley said.

Kelley said there are a number of grant and loan programs that small businesses can and will be able to access through the Small Business Development Center network.

“Our partner organization, the Waukesha County Center for Growth, has one of these experts staffed to help businesses apply for financial assistance as well as provide other support,” Kelley said.

Restaurants and hospitality industries are one of Kelley’s concerns, as they took the first hit.

“The longer this situation lasts, and the more restrictive the measures being taken become, the negative impact on the economy is going to grow,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to really minimize that impact as much as possible and help businesses and employees get through that.”

Many members have recently been reaching out to the Waukesha County Business Alliance regarding what is considered an essential industry, and Kelley said they are trying to get clarification on the definitions of that.

“In general I would say that the mass majority of businesses are essential to our economy as a whole and we need to help them to stay operational as much as possible while we’re controlling and stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Kelley said.

The Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development Board and its partners will continue to serve business. To find a full list of board and partner services, visit: www.wfdc.org/employers.

Guide for small businesses

A guide has been made available on Friday through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) website to help small businesses amid the challenges of COVID-19.

The guide can be downloaded at: wedc.org/programsand- resources/covid-19response.

“Small businesses are a crucial part of the fabric of our communities,” Evers said. “We know they are facing challenges of a magnitude not seen in our lifetime. As this guide illustrates, though, there are steps they can take to adapt to the present situation and continue to provide valuable products and services in their communities,” Evers said.

The guide includes sections on protecting the health of staff and customers, community- level initiatives that can ease business strain, technology- based solutions for businesses and creative ideas for products and services businesses can offer.

The guide also has information for nonprofits, fitness facilities, restaurants, arts and cultural institutions and more.

WEDC grants

The WEDC is also providing $5 million in grants through the Small Business 20/20 program to help businesses that lost money related to response to COVID-19.

The grants are looking to help some small businesses with 20 or less employees. Grants are capped at $20,000 and can be used for rent and payroll expenses, including paid leave for employees.

Companies can apply through community development financial institutions including credit unions and community development banks. The program provides funds to make grants available to existing loan clients in order to mitigate short-term cash flow issues and protect jobs and health in response to COVID-19.

For more information, you can visit online at: https://bit.ly/2xWbIGE.

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