MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin faces $2 billion in revenue losses due to skyrocketing unemployment and other hits to the economy caused by the coronavirus, Gov. Tony Evers told President Donald Trump in a letter sent this week along with the governors of Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The governors, all Democrats, urged Trump in the letter to work with Congress to send $500 billion to states and local governments facing budget shortfalls. The letter was dated Wednesday, the same day that Evers signed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature that clears the way for spending about $2 billion the state is receiving in federal funds.
But Evers said that doesn’t go far enough in addressing the crisis in Wisconsin. He told Trump that the state’s unemployment rate sits at about 15% and Wisconsin is expected to lose more than $2 billion in tax collections over the next year.
“This significant revenue shortfall will damage the state’s ability to respond to the economic crisis faced by our workers and businesses,” Evers wrote.
While the governors push for more money, pressure is building among some to reopen shuttered businesses.
Thousands rallied on Wednesday in Michigan and Oklahoma. In Michigan, some wore masks and carried rifles, but many unmasked people defied stay-at-home orders and jammed nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the Capitol building in Lansing. In Oklahoma, cars plastered with protest signs drove past the Statehouse in Oklahoma City: “All jobs are essential,” read one sign on the back of a pickup truck.
A rally is planned for April 24 at the Wisconsin Capitol to pressure Evers to end an order that closed all non-essential businesses. It’s due to expire that day, but Evers has indicated that he will likely to extend it for another month.
He’s faced questions about why some activities, such as golf, are not permitted. There was also confusion leading up to Easter about whether churches could offer drive-up services, which Evers said they could. Evers also has been criticized for closing 40 state parks and recreational areas in the southern part of Wisconsin.
According to a Facebook event page for organizers of the Wisconsin Freedom Rally, more than 700 people said as of Thursday morning that they planned to attend next week. Organizers said “we will be practicing our constitutional right to assemble and occupy the State Capitol Grounds.”
Health officials have urged people to maintain at least a 6-foot distance from one another to avoid contracting the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death
As of Wednesday, there were 182 deaths from COVID-19 in Wisconsin and more than 3,700 confirmed cases, although health officials have said that represents only a fraction of the people who are actually infected.