July 21, 2020
Amid growing need for County services, the proposal supports life safety measures, emergency operations, and investments in critical economic stability and public health services
MILWAUKEE – Today, County Executive David Crowley introduced a plan to allocate over $47 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funds. The federal funds provide critical assistance for necessary expenditures incurred in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Millions in direct aid are on pace to be allocated for life safety measures and emergency operating costs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as community support programs to address the public health and economic crises created by COVID-19. The increase builds on the $30 million of previously allocated CARES funding, bringing Milwaukee County’s total allocation to more than $77 million to date.
“Our allocation of CARES dollars aims to meet the rising demand for critical services as we continue to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “I look forward to working with the Milwaukee County Board to take this important step forward in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and provide crucial public health and economic services to those in need.”
Projections show that county financial needs could reach $300 million as direct costs, lost revenue, re-opening costs, and service needs continue to increase. Currently, CARES funding provides a temporary, stop-gap measure to address the immediate needs of the county and its residents.
Of the total CARES allocation, $24.8 million will be used for life safety measures, including personal protective equipment, increased cleaning and sanitation, COVID-19 related sick time, and necessary technology enhancements.
Approximately $25.5 million will support emergency operating costs, such as enabling social distancing and isolation in the Criminal Justice Facility and House of Correction, countywide emergency planning and communications, and increased death investigations conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
Milwaukee County continues to face an outsized impact from COVID-19, as the county accounts for 16% of state’s population, but roughly half of the state’s deaths and infections. It has resulted in massive public health and economic challenges. Furthermore, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted minority populations. In Wisconsin, a Black person is more than four times as likely to die of COVID-19 as compared to a white person, and in Milwaukee County, 86% of infections are people of color.
In order to address the economic and public health challenges, while addressing the disproportionate impact on minority populations, Milwaukee County is providing its largest allocation for economic and public health services. $27.1 million will provide resources for economic support, access to healthcare, and housing assistance.
The direct funding in County Executive Crowley’s allocation plan provides $3 million in mortgage assistance, $2 million for housing acquisitions, and $10 million for eviction prevention programs and directly provides funds to legal advocates seeing unprecedented demand for their services.
When the state moratorium on evictions ended, eviction filings spiked in Milwaukee County, totaling nearly 1,500 in June. As the economic challenges created by COVID-19 persist, this figure will continue to grow, and evictions could reach four times the annual rate with more than 60,000 individuals and families displaced. So far, there have been roughly 25,000 requests for eviction relief.
According to emergency medical services data, emergency calls for general mental health, overdoses, and suicide attempts rose on average by 65 percent from March to May of this year. To help address this need, $1.6 million is allocated to mental health services, including services for uninsured populations that are impacted by COVID-19.
To mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19, $7 million are allocated to aid small business in Milwaukee County, providing reimbursement for business interruption costs and impacts associated with COVID-19. In addition, $3.5 million of relief funds will support the Community Resource Navigator Employment Program – a partnership with Employ Milwaukee and WRTP/Big Step. This assistance will help add 275 to 350 additional employment opportunities and increase the number of placements in the program to approximately 200.
“While the plan provides immediate assistance for our urgent needs, the demand for county services will continue to grow, while our ability to pay for those services plummets as we project over $100 million in lost revenue for 2020 alone. I implore our state and federal partners to provide additional direct and flexible funding to Milwaukee County and enable us to effectively respond to the challenges caused by this pandemic,” concluded Crowley.
The Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation is expected to be voted on by the full County Board on Thursday, July 23.