Baldwin touts benefits for rural communities in stimulus bill. Plus more Tuesday headlines.

The massive federal relief bill for people and businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic includes billions of dollars for farmers and rural residents, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, said in a Tuesday press release.

The $2.2 trillion spending plan that President Donald Trump signed into law last Friday will put $1,200 checks into most American adults’ hands, provide an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits, and pump $150 billion into health care. But nestled in the headline-grabbing expenditures are some that Baldwin said directly benefit rural Wisconsinites.

“This bipartisan response from Congress will help provide economic aid to our agriculture economy in Wisconsin during extremely challenging times that have gotten tougher now with this pandemic,” Baldwin said in a statement. “We are all in this together, so I will continue my work to take additional steps to help our farmers and rural communities get through this public health crisis and the ongoing economic challenges we face.”

Some of the provisions include:

  • A $9.5 billion farm disaster relief fund
  • $14 billion for the Farm Bill’s safety net program
  • The ability for farmers to apply for up to $10 million in small business loans
  • $3 million extra to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency
  • $1 billion in loans for small rural businesses
  • $25 million for telemedicine
  • $100 million for rural broadband expansion
  • $70 million for personal protective equipment for the U.S. Forest Service 

Baldwin touted her involvement in getting rural funds into the bill. “I worked to deliver support for Wisconsin farmers and our rural communities,” she said.

In an emailed statement to UpNorthNews last week, Baldwin called the stimulus package a “strong first step.” Her office said she tried to increase the direct payment from $1,200 to $2,000.

In other coronavirus related stories covered Tuesday by Wisconsin media:

FIELD HOSPITALS – (AP) — Wisconsin is preparing to open field hospitals and voluntary isolation centers in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 patients, with cases expected to peak in another week or more, Gov. Tony Evers and state health leaders said Monday. 

JUST DON’T DO IT — Wisconsin Public Radio detailed how some law enforcement agencies across the state are educating the public and enforcing the stay-at-home order. Washington County’s sheriff told WPR that while “it is a criminal violation” to disregard the order, agencies likely will not be taking people into custody. Instead, they’ll generally refer charges to district attorneys, the sheriff predicted.

MORE RETAIL PAIN — Kohl’s, which closed all of its stores on March 19, will now furlough employees and keep doors shut indefinitely, WMTV reports. The closure was originally set to last through April 1.

NEWSROOM CUTBACKS — The coronavirus outbreak is crippling local newspapers throughout the state and nation. Gannett, owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Stevens Point Journal, and Appleton Post-Crescent, among others, is furloughing some staff. Adams Publishing Group, which owns the Janesville Press Gazette, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, and others, is cutting hours and reducing salaries. And Lee Enterprises, owner of the Racine Journal Times, La Crosse Tribune, and Chippewa Herald, among others, is furloughing or cutting pay at its papers.

WHO NEEDS GAS? — A Wautoma gas station set its price at 95 cents per gallon on Tuesday, Fox News reports. Prices have plummeted during the pandemic, with gas even in larger metro areas such as Milwaukee falling below $1.50 per gallon.

JOCKEY STEPS UP — Kenosha-based clothing company Jockey, best known for its underwear, announced on Monday that it will create and donate personal protective equipment locally and nationally, the Kenosha News reports. It will manufacture and distribute 250,000 medical isolation gowns nationally and 20,000 medical masks to the Kenosha Fire Department.

MATC TOO — Milwaukee Area Technical College donated almost 175,000 pairs of gloves, 1,000 gowns, 150 N95 masks, 11,000 surgical masks, and more to six Milwaukee-area hospitals, WITI reports.