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Stay Safer at Home

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 01 April 2020
in Wisconsin

work-from-homeSen. Smith writes about public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the 'Safer at Home' order, and outlines other steps being taken by Governor Evers to address the short-term and long-term impacts of COVID-19.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Every day, as we learn more about COVID-19 and adjust to the disruptions in our daily routine, we’re being tested on how we, as a community, step up to a challenge and work toward a solution. Throughout the state, people are coming together to help others. I’ve heard so many of my friends ask, “What can I do to help?”

The best way to help right now is by staying home. We all have a role to play to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our collective efforts will only make our communities safer and more resilient. As a state, we’ll get through this public health crisis by staying safer at home.

Since Governor Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin on March 13th, his administration has implemented 16 emergency orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while responding to repercussions of the public health crisis. On March 24th, Governor Evers issued the “Safer at Home” order, directing Wisconsinites to stay at home as much as possible, in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus can spread between people who are in close contact to one another or through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes and another person in close proximity inhales, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As stated by the World Health Organization, most individuals infected with COVID-19 experience symptoms similar to the common cold; however COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory illness and may lead to death, especially for older adults or individuals with underlying health conditions.

jeff-smithProtective public health measures and policies, like the “Safer at Home” order are imperative to slow the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, these preventative measures are in place to ensure healthcare providers have the capacity to care for the number of individuals infected with COVID-19 and others that are in-need of emergency medical care.

After having conversations with public health experts, business leaders and local elected officials, Governor Evers understood it was in the state’s best interest to implement the “Safer at Home” order.  The “Safer at Home” order requires individuals to stay home, with limited exceptions, and requires non-essential businesses and operations to cease while the order is effective from March 25th to April 24th. The order is enforceable by local law enforcement and county sheriffs.

The “Safer at Home” order clarifies which businesses and operations are deemed essential, which includes, but is not limited to, farming and agricultural production, food banks and shelters, grocery stores and pharmacies, and manufactory industries. The “Safer at Home” order also provides mandatory guidelines on all forms of travel to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 community spread.

The Department of Health Services encourages Wisconsinites to get fresh air and exercise to stay healthy physically and mentally. You can still go out to walk your dog, visit a state park or go for a bike ride, but you should still maintain social distancing of six feet between others in public. Remember to continue following other public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by regularly washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning high-touch surfaces.

The other emergency orders issued by Governor Evers are intended to address other consequences stemming from COVID-19. During the public health emergency, the orders will help expedite food delivery to grocery stores; extend unemployment insurance eligibility and remove the work search requirement; halt admissions to state prisons and juvenile facilities; suspend utility disconnections and waive late fees; and ban evictions and foreclosures.

Most recently, on Saturday March 28th, Governor Evers introduced a comprehensive legislative proposal to alleviate short-term and long-term challenges connected to COVID-19. I’m hopeful that all of my legislative colleagues can get behind these common-sense initiatives to protect our healthcare workers, help citizens practice their civic duty to vote, support Wisconsin workers and assist our local governments during this pandemic.

Every day, there are new updates about COVID-19. Be sure to stay up-to-date on ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and learn about available resources by visiting: govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19.

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Senator Jeff Smith Says Take COVID-19 Seriously

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 25 March 2020
in Wisconsin

door-county-peopleSenator writes about ways we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, self-isolation and other precautionary measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - We must take COVID-19 seriously. On March 13th, showing tremendous leadership, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin and has since strengthened precautions. Now it’s our turn to do our part by following the guidance from leaders and medical professionals to slow the spread of COVID-19. Undoubtedly, this is a challenging time for us all as we learn to navigate the changes in our daily routine impacted by this global pandemic. It’s our responsibility as neighbors to keep our communities healthy and safe for all.

We have learned so much since we first heard about coronavirus and this particular strain, known as COVID-19. Seven other coronavirus strains exist, including one which leads to the common cold. Some skeptics use this fact as reason to scoff at the precautions taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, COVID-19 is a new strain and there’s still a lot scientists are trying to learn about it. To say that COVID-19 is no more than “a cold on steroids” is like saying a tiger is no more than an overgrown house cat. Yes, they are members of the same species but one is dangerous and vicious while the other is mild and tame.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the COVID-19 virus is found in droplets from the throat and nose and can be spread when someone coughs or sneezes. DHS also reports that the virus can also spread when someone touches an object with the virus on it; if that person touches their mouth, face, or eyes the virus can make them sick. There are a range of symptoms associated with a COVID-19 infection, but symptoms can include fever, cough or shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory illnesses, pneumonia and death.

In recent weeks, Wisconsin has seen community spread of COVID-19, which means there are people who have tested positive who have no exposure to a known case nor did they travel to a location where there is community spread. Now it’s even more important, while scientists and medical professionals research and provide care, that we all do our part to slow the spread.

jeff-smithI have to admit that in the past, I haven’t taken the strongest precautions for my own health, like I should. Then I realized that the public health precautions against COVID-19 are not only carried out to protect my personal well-being, but also to protect the health and safety of my loved ones. I’m self-isolating at my home to reduce the risk of community spread to vulnerable populations, like my 95-year-old father or others with compromised immune systems.

Sacrifices need to be made. We all need to follow CDC recommendations and practice social distancing and self-isolation. The CDC also recommends these practices to keep us and others around us healthy: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; stay home when you’re sick; avoid touching your face; cover your cough or sneeze; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

It’s times like this when the greater good of society is more important than going on with business as usual. Although it hurts that schools, restaurants and bars are shut down while social gatherings are limited to 10 people and we practice social distancing, it is a temporary pain that will slow the spread of COVID-19. We are taking these precautions now to prevent a spike in cases, which would overwhelm our healthcare system. Together, we must practice these measures to protect our family and community and support our hardworking healthcare professionals.

Wisconsin is taking COVID-19 very seriously and we all need to take necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. My next column will have more information about the measures being taken by the Legislature to slow the spread and support families affected by COVID-19.

Every day, there are new updates about COVID-19. Be sure to stay up-to-date on ways to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and learn about ways to cope during this pandemic by visiting: govstatus.egov.com/wi-covid-19.

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Emergency Preparedness to Build Resilient Communities

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 18 March 2020
in Wisconsin

flood-wi-fieldSen. Smith talks about the importance of emergency preparedness to protect communities from natural disasters or public health emergencies, specifically, the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan targeted toward flood prevention and relief.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Emergencies hit communities without notice and threaten our local economies. We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency right now, but we have faced emergencies before and we’ve become stronger from it.

Flooding in western Wisconsin has tested our communities’ responses to emergencies. Public health emergencies and flooding are dramatically different emergencies, but both require us to work together to keep our communities healthy and safe.

We’ve seen political leaders show up for photo opportunities when something dramatic happens, especially after a natural disaster. It’s not bad when leaders show up; it’s important they see firsthand what happened and be an advocate, but there’s more to do.  We need to know how we can prevent disasters in the future and how to support those affected by these events.

jeff-smithThat’s why, just last week, I joined Governor Tony Evers for a visit to the Town of Dodge and the City of Arcadia. Last year, Governor Evers made the same visit when both places were flooded in Trempealeau County. Flooding has become an annual occurrence in these places. What we once called 100-year floods are now considered normal.

Flooding has not occurred yet this season and this was no photo opportunity with any press in Dodge. This visit occurred because Governor Evers hasn’t forgotten last year’s floods. Rather than wait until the next flood happens, the Governor and I want to continue the conversations we had last year with local government officials and introduce planning measures to address conditions that make flooding more frequent and severe in western Wisconsin.

Between 1950 and 2006, communities in every region of Wisconsin, have experienced an increase of average annual rainfall by more than 7 inches, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The increase in rainfall, along with destruction of our wetlands and failing infrastructure, directly correlate to the escalating frequency of floods in Wisconsin. Together, these factors threaten our community’s public safety, health and economic security.

In the meetings, residents and local officials voiced concerns that flood prevention measures cost too much. Local town, city and county budgets are already stretched and cannot handle the expensive fixes needed to protect residents from flooding. That’s where the state needs to step up to the plate.

After the tour of Trempealeau County, Governor Evers, myself and several of my legislative colleagues introduced the Flood Prevention & Resilience Plan, a package of 6 bills directly targeted toward flood prevention and relief. This package of bills will:

·         Invest $10 million into the Municipal Flood Control grant program to help municipalities fund flood prevention projects, including flood proofing, riparian restoration, acquisition of vacant land, construction of flood control structures and flood mapping projects.

·         Create a flood mitigation program to proactively address infrastructure that is identified as at-risk and provide local units of government with grant reimbursements to cover 50% of the cost of modifying, replacing, or relocating culverts or bridges.

·         Increase funding for the Soil and Water Resource Management grant program to promote the installation of structural pollution-abatement and conservation practices.

·         Require all emergency work, designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency, be eligible for disaster assistance payments, including debris removal, protective measures for roads and bridges, water control facilities, utilities, and parks. Legislation will also reduce the amount recipients of disaster assistance payments are required to make.

·         Allow individuals to deduct amounts of premiums paid for flood insurance from their taxes.

·         Incentivize local governments to rebuild infrastructure at a higher capacity to withstand flooding by increasing the reimbursement rate paid to local governments.

These flood prevention investments will help local governments rebuild and prepare when the next flood emergency happens. I’m impressed by Governor Evers’ commitment to take proactive steps to help communities susceptible to flooding. Governor Evers didn’t show up for a photo opportunity in a disaster area. He came back when the cameras weren’t rolling to talk with people about how to make their lives better and communities stronger.

Now, it’s up to the Legislature to move forward on these proposals. In the meantime, remember to do everything you can to prepare yourself by getting flood insurance and staying educated by visiting FloodSmart.gov.

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Logic behind Healthcare

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 11 March 2020
in Wisconsin

medicaid_checkupOver the past thirty years, Wisconsin has fallen 16 spots in national healthcare outcomes to 23rd. It’s beyond time to give Wisconsinites the care they deserve by expanding Medicaid.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - We’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about our health. Just last week, I found myself in many conversations with healthcare professionals talking about ways to improve the health of our community – and no, I’m not only talking about keeping our communities safe by preventing the spread of coronavirus.

Throughout my conversations with caregivers, nurses, health professionals and researchers, we identified prominent issues affecting the state of public health in Wisconsin. While discussing issues, from surprise medical bills to the nursing shortage to the opioid epidemic, I started to think about how we’re all connected to these issues in one way or another.

Although we may not be directly impacted by these health challenges in our personal lives, they affect our community in significant ways. Collectively, our state has a role to play for addressing public health challenges and making our communities healthier for all. Our capacity to empathize with others has the ability to save lives.

medicaid-coverage-wiscLast week, I attended the UW Robert La Follette School of Public Affairs Health Policy Forum. The forum highlighted public health challenges facing Wisconsin including the long-term care workforce shortage, patient protections and housing affordability. I had the opportunity to participate as a panelist with three rural health experts to discuss strategies that can help solve the unique healthcare struggles facing rural Wisconsin.

The real value of the panel was listening to the health professionals who live within the communities they serve. Being around incredibly smart people in the medical field could be intimidating, but I found their concerns and potential solutions were similar to what I’ve heard from residents of rural western Wisconsin.

For example, we agreed Wisconsin must join other neighboring states by investing in broadband expansion to advance access to rural clinics and health professionals. This idea is also something I’ve heard many times from residents of western Wisconsin. Broadband expansion has been a boon to our neighboring states’ rural communities in sustaining a strong economy and improving telehealth availability for the elderly or patients who may face difficulties in traveling. It only makes sense.

jeff-smithAfter the panel, I met a physician with years of experience in improving healthcare delivery, continuing his mission to help health systems provide the best care to their patients. During our conversation, he reminded me about Wisconsin’s significant drop in healthcare outcomes. According to the 2019 United Health Foundation’s Annual Report, Wisconsin ranked 7th nationally for healthcare outcomes in 1990. In 2019, we’ve fallen 16 spots to 23rd. By comparison, Minnesota only dropped from 2nd to 7th and Illinois increased their rank from 24th to 29th in the same time period. Republicans have not found the political will to expand Medicaid, while neighboring states have, it’s not a coincidence this has been the result.

We have a responsibility to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. For each month that Republicans refuse to act, Wisconsin wastes approximately $13 million in state funding to pay for other states’ Medicaid programs. Over the next two years, Wisconsin would save $320 million, while lowering premiums for private insurance holders by 7 to 11 percent.

I’ve noticed lawmakers or individuals in positions of power don’t take action unless they are directly or severely affected. During the public health forum, many healthcare professionals pointed out, more than once, that Wisconsin has a serious opioid addiction problem.

The opioid epidemic, affecting individuals, families and communities across the country, is not new to Wisconsin, but it has become considerably worse in recent years. It wasn’t until legislators personally knew someone or knew a family affected by the opioid epidemic that action was taken. We should never wish such pain on any family, but we ought to develop empathy for others and collaborate to address public health challenges, before we may have to experience it for ourselves.

Let’s think ahead and think about others. We should use our empathy for decision making so we can find our way out of this black hole of inaction. It’s lifesaving.

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Sen. Smith: I’m Here, Ready to Listen

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 04 March 2020
in Wisconsin

meeting-crowdOver the next couple of weeks, Sen. Jeff Smith will be hosting a series of listening sessions to hear from the people of the 31st. and hopes you can join them.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - I’ve always said that one of the best parts of my job is listening to others, whether it’s their stories, suggestions or questions. During this time of year, I regularly hear many of the same questions.

What happened? Where did the time go? Why didn’t things get done? What can we expect?

These are all important questions, questions Wisconsinites deserve to ask, especially as the legislative session comes to a close. I hope to have the opportunity to answer these and your other pressing questions during my end-of-session listening sessions.

As always, the best part of listening is learning. I learn a lot from folks who come to the listening sessions, and I hope I’m able to share insightful information for others to learn from as well.

Last week, I held the first end-of-session town hall listening session in Whitehall at Sweet Temptations Cafe. More than a dozen constituents sat with me to ask questions and start a discussion. The topics of conversation ranged from the broken school funding formula, broadband expansion, gerrymandering and the urgency of repairing our crumbling rural roads to Managed Forest Land.

Our conversation on these interesting and important issues could have gone on for hours. Although the topics are relatively different, the answers I come back to are typically the same. When we talk about being unable to expand Medicaid or properly fund our public schools, the conclusion rests on the decisions made by the Majority Party or the consequences of gerrymandered maps.

For example, when Governor Evers presented a plan to provide property tax relief for Wisconsinites while recommitting the state to two-thirds funding of our public schools, Republicans declined to even have a discussion, instead opting for a one-time property tax rebate.

After listening to the hardworking educators in the area, I knew the importance of Governor Evers’ plan. I support Governor Evers’ plan because it’s the plan my constituents have advocated for to support our rural communities in more ways than one. I’m continuing to listen and learn from residents across the state on the best ways to lead and collaborate with my legislative colleagues.

jeff-smithI want to make myself available to learn more from you. In the following weeks, I’m holding these upcoming end-of-session listening sessions:

· March 5 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Chippewa Valley Technical College Room 101 in the Business Education Center, Eau Claire with Representative Jodi Emerson

· March 10 (5:00 PM – 6:30 PM) – Revolution Coffee, Black River Falls

· March 12 (4:30 PM – 6:00 PM) – The Twisted Oak Coffee House, Prescott

· March 26 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Roger Marten Community Center, Mondovi

· April 2 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM) – Cochrane-Fountain City High School, Fountain City

With the last session day happening the last week of March, this is a chance for you to share your thoughts on what the legislature still needs to accomplish and your ideas about what we could be doing better for the next session in 2021.

But don’t think this is the end of my work for 2020. Along with holding scheduled listening sessions like these, I’ll be getting back out on the road for my mobile office hours with my truck and Stop N’ Talk sign.

The conversations and action we take in 2020 will, undoubtedly, have an impact on how we work in 2021. We don’t get any more free passes to complain if we don’t demonstrate our duty to stand up, participate and fight for the best interests of Wisconsinites. Be sure to show up to listening sessions and share your thoughts. Make your voice heard loud and clear.

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