Empower Wisconsin | March 24, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
In announcing a broader “shelter-in-place” order, Gov. Tony Evers on Monday tweeted that he had spoken with business leaders from around the state.
Apparently, those “business leaders” amounted to one very big Milwaukee-area business consortium pitching what could amount to a knock-out punch to Wisconsin’s economy.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) issued to members an updated policy statement, recommending steps Wisconsin should take to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
MMAC’s recommendations sound a lot like Evers’ impending order, expected to go into effect on Tuesday. The order calls for effectively requiring all “nonessential” workers and Badger State residents to remain at home for all but essential activities — getting groceries, going to the doctor, picking up presciprdtions.
The first priority, according to the regional business group:
“Implement a broad directive for citizens to ‘shelter in place,’ including a minimum two-week — and preferably three to four-week — cessation of non-essential business activity statewide.”
MMAC notes there must be recognition of “essential industries that must continue to operate and serve health care, testing development, infrastructure, food and beverage, defense and other critical path supply chains.” The association refers to federal guidelines on essential business.
The association also recommends the implementation of “best and next practices for any essential industry employer that continues to operate to mitigate the spread, protect their employees, and to keep critical functions operational.”
MMAC President Tim Sheehy told members in his email that the association recognizes that following the recommendations will “entail economic hardship, but they are also necessary to reduce the real health risks.”
“Using the best information, these recommendations will help Wisconsin come together with consistent policies so we can come through this crisis and come out stronger,” the policy statement asserts.
Evers’ multiple tweets on Monday did not provide full definition of what he considers “essential industries,” a point of concern for the state’s largest chamber of commerce.
In a response to the governor’s announcement, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce released a statement noting the need to keep all Wisconsinites safe and healthy during an unprecedented time,
“However, it is imperative that the governor also take into account the health of the state’s economy … It is our hope that Gov. Evers exempts all manufacturers from this order, in addition to all businesses in the critical supply chains for health care, food access, transportation, construction, energy, financial services and other needed industries,” WMC stated in a series of tweets.
Evers’ shelter-in-place order announcement begged many more questions than it answered, a point noted by Republican legislative leadership.
“The governor’s announcement has created mass amounts of confusion,” Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a joint statement.
They said the governor’s “change of course” from the “measured approach” he had previously taken and his lack of specific guidance have only added to the “level of uncertainty and anxiety” in the state.
“There also needs to be a better understanding as to why the decisions are being made, because of the impact on the economy, businesses and residents of the state,” the lawmakers stated.
Vos and Fitzgerald said the governor should spell out the metrics his decision was based on, what businesses are considered essential and non-essential, and what changes need to occur for the order to be lifted. In short, they ask Evers to do a better job of communicating.