Questions about race as Wisconsin struggles to deliver jobless aid during pandemic — 6/30/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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Today we highlight our latest examination of Wisconsin’s overwhelmed unemployment insurance system, which has left thousands of people without income during the economically devastating pandemic. 

Bram Sable-Smith, a WPR fellow embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom, reports on national research showing that jobless Black and Latino workers have historically proved less likely than white workers to receive unemployment aid. Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development says it does not have race, gender, age or income reports available. 

Some experts say Wisconsin — home to some of the country’s most severe racial disparities in education, public health, housing and criminal justice — should track whether its workforce agency equitably distributes unemployment during the economic crisis.

Top Stories

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Alfreida Casterlow is seen with her granddaughter A’marii Brilliance Felder, 4, at the Berryland Playground near their home in Milwaukee on June 23, 2020. Like thousands of other jobless Wisconsinites, Casterlow is trapped in the purgatory of Wisconsin’s backlogged and overloaded unemployment system. She believes she is owed around $8,000 in unemployment assistance, and said she hasn’t had more than $30 in her pocket since she was laid off in April. She supports herself, her daughter and her granddaughter.

As the nation reckons with race, a mother awaits unemployment aid — and Wisconsin officials lack researchWPR/Wisconsin

Brown County’s Latino community ‘terrorized’ by coronavirus, and the numbers show whyGreen Bay Press Gazette

Surge of Wisconsin COVID-19 cases in young adults concerns officialsWisconsin State Journal

Don’t expect a face mask requirement or statewide bar closures in Wisconsin, here’s whyMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

Health care workers renew call for hazard pay as COVID-19 cases riseWPR 

Municipalities brace for tough 2021 budget planning due to COVID-19 impactBeloit Daily News 

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Government updates

Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Gov. Tony Evers’ office

U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization 


“The accolades of being a hero quickly fade for us when we confront the reality of being on the front lines of every shift.”

Victorial Guttierez, a veteran critical care nurse in Madison and a member of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, which is calling for hazard pay for health care workers as COVID-19 cases rise, as quoted by WPR.

Data to note

A month after Gov. Tony Evers’ 60-day moratorium on evictions expired, 24,000-plus people are waiting for state rental assistance in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Washington counties, according to Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS). 

The Social Development Commission, which administers the program for the counties, says it is returning calls on a “first come-first serve basis,” Princess Safiya Byers of NNS reported. Many have yet to hear back.

The commission received $6.7 million through the Wisconsin Rent Assistance Program  — a $25 million statewide program funded by Congress’ pandemic stimulus legislation.

Meanwhile, here is the latest visualization of Wisconsin’s recent increase on COVID-19 cases from our partners at WisContext.

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‘We wanted kids to be able to play this summer:’ Milwaukee playgrounds will have socially distant activities at free meal sitesMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Pandemic leads Girls on the Run to change strategy for keeping youth active this summerMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

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