Wisconsin Weekly: In reversal, Wisconsin to grant jobless benefits to laid-off workers with disabilities

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Unemployment insurance; police spending; racial justice; dairy consolidation; feds head to Milwaukee


Of note: This week we highlight the impact of our reporting on how Wisconsin handles unemployment claims filed by out-of-work people with disabilities.

Bram Sable-Smith, a Wisconsin Watch/WPR fellow, previously reported on an unusual state law barring workers receiving federal disability benefits from collecting unemployment aid. The state Department of Workforce Development pointed to that law in also denying them federal pandemic aid, drawing criticism from labor experts who called the policy flawed and discriminatory. About a week after Sable-Smith’s June report, DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman asked the U.S. Department of Labor for permission to reverse course.

The federal agency granted its approval on Monday, opening up federal aid to potentially hundreds — or even thousands — of the 175,000 working-age Wisconsinites who rely on disability benefits to supplement their income.

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Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

Caleb Frostman, Wisconsin secretary of Workforce Development, is seen at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Jan. 7, 2019. Frostman has announced that laid-off Wisconsin workers who rely on federal Social Security Disability Insurance may also now qualify for federal pandemic-related unemployment payments.

Following denials, laid-off Wisconsin workers with disabilities now eligible for federal pandemic aid

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — July 28, 2020

Federal government gives Wisconsin its blessing to reverse a policy that had blocked assistance to jobless workers receiving disability aid.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

“Defund the police” is seen painted across a block of North Water Street in Milwaukee on July 2, 2020. The Milwaukee Department of Public Works removed the paint a week later, saying it presented “serious traffic safety concerns” because it covered traffic markings and was slick when wet. “The message painted on Water Street has been heard loud and clear by policy makers in city government, and the Department of Public Works has no intention to diminish the voices calling for change,” Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Polenske said in a July 9 statement. “Our concern for unauthorized street art including the current mural on Water Street is solely about safety.”

Defund the police? Milwaukee eyes future amid Black Lives Matter protests, coronavirus budget crunch

Wisconsin Watch — July 25, 2020

Milwaukee activist Annia Leonard wants a safe community without police, and she draws from her own experience when thinking about what that could be: like the time a conflict at her grandmother’s house ended peacefully in a garden — without anyone in handcuffs.

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

Adija Greer-Smith is seen with her son Xavier Smith at her bakery, Confectionately Yours, in Milwaukee on July 2. “In teaching Xavier the responsibilities of work ethic and hard work — all of these things, it’s just to better him as an individual,” Greer-Smith said.

‘The people just want to be heard’: A Milwaukee mother and son discuss racial justice and education during the pandemic.

Wisconsin Watch/WPR  — July 29,2020

Adija Greer-Smith is rarely alone these summer mornings when she drives to her Milwaukee bakery, Confectionately Yours. Her oldest son, Xavier Smith, offers conversation while riding shotgun.

USDA report describes fast-paced consolidation in dairy industry, centered in the Midwest

Wisconsin Public Radio — July 30, 2020

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows how consolidation in the dairy industry continues to play out in Wisconsin and other dairy states. It found that the pace of consolidation in dairy “far exceeds” the rate seen in most other agriculture sectors.

Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Matthew Krueger, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, was joined by members of local law enforcement, the FBI, DEA, ATF and United States Marshals Service to brief the media on Operation Legend being expanded in Milwaukee to combat violent crime.

More than 25 federal agents coming to Milwaukee as part of ‘Operation Legend’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — July 28, 2020

More than 25 federal agents will be coming to Milwaukee as part of Operation Legend, a program aimed at addressing violent crime, Matthew D. Krueger, U.S. attorney for Wisconsin’s Eastern District, said Wednesday. The earlier announcement that federal agents would be coming to the city caught elected leaders in Wisconsin by surprise and raised concerns about the agents’ purpose.

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