MADISON, Wis. — After nearly three months into a national public health and economic crisis and over 100,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, Opportunity Wisconsin, A Better Wisconsin Together, Priorities Wisconsin and Protect Our Care Wisconsin hosted a statewide virtual town hall via Facebook Live with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes to hear directly from Wisconsinites about their struggles, their thoughts on reopening, and what they still need from the Trump administration.

“The [Trump] administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on its priorities – and that’s big corporations and billionaires first, and everybody else last. When corporations and billionaires are prioritized over working people this makes income inequality incredibly worse,” said Lieutenant Governor Barnes.

“There were so many warning signs that would have been a roadmap for what to do if you wanted to lead in this situation. At every turn they were just ignored or there was a claim of ignorance,” said Senator Baldwin. “Some of my chief criticism of the president has been his failure to take this on at the national level.”

This health and economic crisis didn’t have to be this bad. As Wisconsin reopens, deaths rise, and aid is slow to arrive, the Trump administration has failed to prepare us, botched the response, and has favored corporations each step of the way. This crisis isn’t over, people are still getting sick (and worse), and vulnerable populations are still at tremendous risk.

“There does not appear to be any thoughtful planning about how we should reopen and how it affects particularly those of us who are older and more frail,” said Anne Brown, an attorney from Eau Claire. “When Trump says we are going to have some deaths, I’m one of those likely candidates and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

We’re calling on our federal lawmakers and the Trump administration to fight for policies that support all Wisconsinites, like the HEROES Act, which has yet to be taken up by the Senate. We need the White House to prioritize the health and safety of Wisconsin seniors, business owners, frontline workers, health care providers, and all working Wisconsinites who are facing fear and uncertainty as COVID-19 still looms large.

“The federal government has been focused on speed rather than safety. And I feel like I’m forced to choose between my health and my job,” said Kyra Swenson, an early child care educator from Fitchburg.

Opportunity Wisconsin recently released a new graphic outlining these tough choices Wisconsin workers continue to face as corporations get billions.

Last month, Opportunity Wisconsin sent a letter to Congressional leaders demanding support for working Wisconsinites in the HEROES Act. The letter included a demand for “robust financial assistance for small businesses across the state struggling to make ends meet, in place of the mismanaged Paycheck Protection Program, which has failed to actually deliver relief to small businesses.”

“All [the Paycheck Protection Program] did was provide wages for staff. But for the business itself, it really wasn’t helping,” said Darren Price, a small business owner from Tomah. “Look, Trump is not a failure. Failure implies that you tried.”

“The PPP essentially stopped the bleeding, so hopefully in the end we will figure out a way to be profitable. But because of the way things are ever changing, it’s devastating,” said Melissa Buchholz, PRAWN executive director, Opportunity Wisconsin steering committee member, and Odd Duck owner.

Instead of working with Congress to pass the HEROES Act, which would provide additional relief for Wisconsinites most impacted by this crisis, President Trump is trying to jam through a payroll tax cut, which would give wealthy corporations billions of dollars in tax breaks while a single parent earning $25,000 a year would receive just $500.

“I’m calling this the ‘new reality’ not ‘the new normal,’” said Connie Jordan, an educator from Green Bay. “Trying to put one foot in front of the other when we don’t know what the administration is going to provide is really frightening.”

“There’s no going  back to where we were before…When we build back after this pandemic we have to build back better,” said Senator Baldwin.


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