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Assembly hits pause on vote to eliminate Tony Evers’ mask mandate

Written by LOPPW | 01/30/2021

Assembly hits pause on vote to eliminate Tony Evers’ mask mandate

If the governor’s emergency order is repealed, Wisconsin could lose more than $49.3 million in FoodShare benefits, according to a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The memo, requested by Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, states that federal COVID-19 aid passed last year provides assistance to households participating in food assistance programs as long as the state has an existing emergency health order in place. The state Department of Health Services estimates that more than 242,000 Wisconsin households will receive such emergency benefits this month.

Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force, said an average senior living in public housing in Wisconsin received $16 a month in FoodShare before the pandemic. With emergency funding from the federal government, recipients get $204 a month.

“That’s a big impact to our seniors,” Tusler said. “No one wants to think about grandma without food.”

Less than 24 hours after being informed that repealing Evers’ emergency order could put the federal funds in jeopardy, Senate Republicans passed an amended COVID-19 relief bill that would allow the Democratic governor to put in place future coronavirus emergency orders, but ban the inclusion of other pandemic-related measures such as future mask mandates.

Vos said he believes the Senate amendment “probably fixes the issue, but I don’t know that for sure.”

The amendment is attached to a legislative package that has ping-ponged between the GOP-led Senate and Assembly and could be heading for a veto as it includes several items Evers has opposed.

While the Senate had removed a handful of items authored by Assembly Republicans in an attempt to reach bipartisan support, the Assembly reintroduced several of those measures earlier this week. The Senate approved those additions on Thursday.

Items added back to the bill would prohibit employers from mandating vaccines for employees and allow local public health officials the ability to limit gatherings at churches and other places of worship. Another amendment would grant the state’s GOP-led budget committee authority over how the state spends future federal funds dedicated to the pandemic — a measure Evers has opposed.

The GOP-led Legislature has not sent a pandemic-related measure to Evers’ desk since April.

“We should have no reason to believe that this bill is going to see the light of day,” Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley, D-Mason, said. “The emperor has no clothes — we aren’t doing anything. There can be no victory lap today.”

Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who co-authored the joint resolution to repeal the state emergency order and the amendment passed by the Senate on Thursday, shifted the blame to Evers.

“If the governor were to veto this legislation, he would be the one killing $49 million,” Nass said.