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Government
Janesville finance director outlines projected revenue losses because of pandemic

The city of Janesville is projecting $719,000 of lost revenue from various programs between March and June because of the coronavirus pandemic, Finance Director Max Gagin reported to the city council Monday night.

Gagin also broke down costs incurred through the city’s emergency response to the pandemic.

The city has dedicated $874,100 to its pandemic response as of Monday.

Of that, $248,100 is for personnel, which is already budgeted for and not considered an additional expense. The city is tracking that cost to monitor how employees are reallocating their time on emergency business rather than regular duties, Gagin said.

The city spent $581,300 on a pop-up medical surge shelter that can provide 50 additional hospital beds if city hospitals fill up.

The remaining $44,700 has gone toward personal protective equipment, disinfectants and other materials, Gagin said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public assistance program could reimburse 75% of eligible costs incurred. The state has agreed to reimburse 12.5% of eligible expenses, Gagin said.

The city also will receive $100,000 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to support the fire and police departments.

Gagin said the city is projecting revenue losses in these categories:

  • Hotel/motel taxes.
  • Community development permit fees.
  • Interest earnings.
  • Parking fees.
  • Police service charges.
  • Fire service charges.
  • Recreation fees.
  • Transit fares.
  • Golf course fees.

The biggest projected loss in revenue is anticipated to come out of fire service fee collections. Gagin expects the city to see a revenue loss of $297,700 between March and June.

Losses include the cessation of hospital-to-hospital transports and fewer overall ambulance fees because of a lower call volume and an increase in Medicaid and Medicare recipients needing transport, Gagin said.

Calls for services are down 20% compared to last year. The percentage of patients needing services who receive Medicaid or Medicare is 60%. Federal caps on Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements lead to the loss in revenue, Gagin said.

The city’s golf courses, even after reopening this week, are expected to lose $165,200 in revenue. Gagin said he does not see a viable option for the golf courses remaining open without help from the city’s general fund.

Transit services are already subsidized by the general fund, but it might need a larger subsidy than expected because of an expected reduction in fare collection, Gagin said.

Closures of recreation facilities and programs are expected to cause a $189,100 reduction in revenue as the ice arena and senior center remain closed and recreation programs are likely to be canceled.

The Janesville Police Department plans to hold off on filling vacant positions to make up for a $78,000 loss in state funding that typically pays for school resource officer wages. Officers are working but not as resource officers since schools closed in March.

Utility revenues are expected to remain steady or increase, but Gagin said there is a concern about collections because individuals are experiencing financial hardship.

Council member Jim Farrell asked when the council could consider budget amendments to help mitigate losses. Gagin said it is too soon to make decisions yet because many factors are expected to change.

The presentation did not include expense projections for the programs.


A close-up shot of delicate pink tulip petals covered in water droplets outside the Hedberg Public Library as it rained throughout much the day Monday in Janesville.


Coronavirus
Rock County jailer tests positive for coronavirus

JANESVILLE

A Rock County correctional officer has tested positive for the coronavirus, the sheriff’s office announced Monday.

The officer reported Monday he had tested positive, said Chief Deputy Craig Strouse of the sheriff’s office.

The officer was tested after having fever over the weekend, Strouse said.

“The officer’s symptoms are relatively minor at this time,” according to a news release.

Officials tracked down every employee who had contact with the jailer in the previous five days, and anyone who did was told not to report to work and to quarantine at home, Strouse said.

Part of the jail staff had been working from home on a rotating schedule in order to have enough staff to handle this problem, Strouse said, so officers were assigned to cover for those who can’t work, Strouse said.

The rescheduling affected all three shifts, Strouse said.

Some inmates have been tested in recent weeks, but none has tested positive, Strouse said.

As of Monday, no inmates were exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, according to the news release.

The jail did not check for every inmate that had contact with the infected jailer, but jail units are being isolated from each other as much as possible, and officials know which units the infected jailer had contact with, and jail staff wear protective equipment when in contact with inmates, Strouse said.

The frequency of inmate temperature checks is being increased as a result of the positive test, Strouse said.

The jail switched to permanent assignments on Monday, so jailers are now assigned to specific units, Strouse said.

The jail, which has a capacity of about 500 inmates, reduced its population dramatically in recent weeks in an effort to contain any outbreak that might occur.

The jail population was 212 on Monday, Strouse said.

The jail has two negative-pressure cells where an infected inmate could be housed.

Jail staff members are required to sanitize their hands and get their temperatures checked before every shift. They are sent home if they have any fever, Strouse said.

Other measures the jail has been taking are increased cleaning of housing areas and providing inmates with masks, according to the release.


Health_care
SSM Health announces 13-week furloughs systemwide

SSM Health will furlough about 2,000 employees systemwide, including employees at its Janesville hospital, SSM Health officials said.

The health system has seen its patient volume cut in half by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

Kim Sveum, a spokeswoman for SSM Health, declined to say how many Janesville employees will be furloughed or which jobs the furloughed employees hold.

“None of the measures announced today will impact delivery of the high-quality, compassionate care we provide, and I can assure you we are doing everything we can to minimize the negative impact to our teams, as was laid out in the statement we shared earlier today,” Sveum said in an email to The Gazette.

SSM Health has facilities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Furloughs will affect about 5% of the system’s workforce, according to the release.

Furloughs are expected to last 13 weeks, but employees could be brought back sooner as operations return to normal, according to the release.

Furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits and might be eligible for SSM Health’s return-to-work adjustment, which will provide assistance to employees whose usual base wages were not covered by government unemployment programs, according to the release.

Employees will continue to receive annual salary increases, but executive compensation is frozen, according to the release.

The release states the health care system has reduced expenses in its support functions by 20% and has paused or deferred noncritical capital projects.

Sveum declined to elaborate on which support functions have been cut.

An email to employees Monday said SSM Health will freeze payments for travel, seminars, sponsorships and other discretionary expenses.


Obituaries and death notices for April 28, 2020

Donald William Bloedel

Richard “Dick” Burpee

David R. Cates

Judith “Judy” Freeman

Joyce Kershaw

Isabelle R. “Issy” Kostenko

Frank J. Splinter Jr.

Oscar Wedel


Business
AP
Evers loosens restrictions, allowing more businesses to open

MADISON

Dog groomers, upholsterers, lawn mower repair shops and other nonessential businesses able to offer contactless services can reopen this week, the latest loosening of Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday.

Evers’ stay-at-home order runs until May 26 and has kept most nonessential businesses closed, leading to skyrocketing unemployment. Evers has been pressured by Republicans and the state chamber of commerce to move more quickly to allow businesses to reopen.

Under the latest order, outdoor recreational businesses renting out boats, kayaks and other recreational vehicles can also reopen starting Wednesday. So too can self-service or automatic car washes. They all must operate free from contact with customers.

“This order means that every business across our state can do things like deliveries, mailings, curbside pickup and drop-off, and it’s an important step in making sure that while folks are staying safer at home, they can also continue to support small businesses across our state,” Evers said.

Staff must be limited to one person per room or confined space at a time. Payment must be made online or by phone, and drop-offs and pickups must be scheduled ahead of time. Customers are not allowed inside business premises.

Evers described it as a “turn of the dial” to reopen the state, starting with businesses that require limited interaction between customers and employees.

“We are able to do this in a way that’s safe,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction, and I’m confident that we will continue to dial it down.”

Hair salons and barbers remain closed because of the necessary close contact between employees and customers, Evers’ legal counsel Ryan Nilsestuen said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court was meanwhile accepting arguments from Evers in defense of his stay-at-home order that is scheduled to run through May 26. Republican legislative leaders are asking the court to block it and force Evers to work with them on a new approach. Despite polls showing widespread support for such orders nationwide, Wisconsin Republicans have been critical.

“We may all be in this together, but we don’t need to cripple all of us for the pandemic located in a few counties,” said Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine, warning Wisconsin could be devastated by Evers’ pandemic response.

Evers reiterated that his decisions are driven by science and what can be safely achieved without causing a spike in infections that would overwhelm the state’s medical providers. To date, there have been 281 deaths and more than 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wisconsin.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Evers’ plan for a phased reopening of Wisconsin mirrors federal guidelines in requiring 14 days of decline in positive cases of COVID-19 as a percentage of total tests, along with an increase in testing, contact tracing and safety equipment for health care workers.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state chamber of commerce, has proposed its own reopening plan that would allow all business to resume May 4.

Meanwhile, a cluster of cases led to the closure of the JBS Packerland meatpacking plant in Brown County on Sunday. Brown County Health Department spokeswoman Claire Paprocki said Monday that 255 employees at the JBS plant had tested positive for COVID-19. There were also 130 confirmed cases among workers at the American Foods Group plant in Green Bay and another 17 employees of sausage maker Salm Partners in Denmark, about 20 miles away. Those plants remained open.