Circumventing vaccine hurdles; connecting with remote students; scrutiny for GOP stimulus plan; food aid failure


Of note: This week he highlight a story by Bram Sable-Smith of Wisconsin Watch and WPR. He found that vaccine disparities persist between white Wisconsinites and residents of color, and he tells the story of three members of one Latino family who say they were turned away from a Milwaukee Walgreens for insufficient identification — despite having received a letter from the state confirming their eligibility for vaccination. Community groups are trying to narrow disparities by tackling barriers to access, Sable-Smith reports. From Milwaukee’s underserved neighborhoods to Hmong communities in Madison and Wausau, groups are finding success through partnerships, deep listening and door-to-door engagement.

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Kynala Phillips, left, and Jimmy Gutierrez, right, distribute bags with COVID-19 vaccination information, face masks, hand sanitizer and a community newsletter to Milwaukee residents in vaccine eligible ZIP codes on March 27, 2021, in Milwaukee. Some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations struggle to access COVID-19 vaccines, and volunteers and community groups are trying to erase barriers. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

‘We’re not given the option to get vaccinated’: Advocates work to narrow racial and ethnic disparities in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Watch/WPR  — April 5, 2021

Public health leaders have called Wisconsin a national leader for quickly and widely delivering shots to residents. But access remains far from even among Wisconsinites. The state’s racial, ethnic and other minority groups face major barriers to inoculation  — just as those groups suffer a disproportionate share of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. A March study of 48 states ranked Wisconsin 32 in delivering shots to highly vulnerable communities. Aiming to understand what works, WPR and Wisconsin Watch interviewed nearly a dozen people working to bring vaccines into underserved communities.

Leer en español: “No tenemos la opción de vacunarnos”: Defensores trabajan para reducir las disparidades raciales y étnicas en Wisconsin

Wisconsin GOP plans for latest federal relief money may not be allowed

WPR — April 7, 2021

GOP lawmakers are forging ahead with proposals to spend billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 recovery aid headed to Wisconsin even as a new nonpartisan analysis found some of their plans may run afoul of federal guidelines. The move marked the latest schism between legislative Republicans and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has the authority under current law to spend the money without consulting the Legislature.

Manure tankers deliver liquid manure from Tag Lane Dairy to an agricultural field about 4 miles away near Ixonia, Wis., on Oct. 30, 2018. The Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide whether state regulators can place restrictions on large farms, such as requiring groundwater monitoring near manure spreading fields, or whether that exceeds their authority under state law. Credit: Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin Supreme Court weighs state power to protect water from farm pollutants

Wisconsin Watch/WisPolitics.com — April 9, 2021 

The state Supreme Court on Monday hears arguments in a case that could determine whether the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources failed to adequately protect water from manure pollution when awarding a permit to a giant dairy farm in northeastern Wisconsin — or whether the agency lacks the authority to issue such restrictions. The case involving Kinnard Farms, a Kewaunee County mega-dairy farm with about 8,200 cows, has become a regulatory battleground, drawing a litany of environmental and industrial groups in support or opposition to the lawsuit. The GOP-controlled state Legislature even petitioned the court to intervene on behalf of the owners of Kinnard Farms, which the justices allowed.

Julie Welch gives a virtual math lesson to her sixth grade students from her home in West Salem, Wis., on Feb. 8, 2021. “It isn’t as remote and lonely as I thought it would be,” she said of her experience online teaching. Credit: Angela Major / WPR

‘It isn’t as remote and lonely as I thought it would be’: La Crosse teacher Julie Welch finds new ways to connect with students virtually

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — April 6, 2021

Julie Welch starts each school day by heading down the stairs to her basement. Last summer, she turned her guest room into a classroom for the La Crosse School District’s Coulee Region Virtual Academy, an online charter school created as an alternative to in-person classes this year. Welch checks email and opens the day’s online lessons for her 6th grade class before starting their morning meeting on Zoom. The lessons are designed to be done independently, but she offers help sessions for each subject on Zoom and hosts virtual office hours for students who need extra help. Welch has been surprised by the relationships she’s built with students and their families without even meeting them in person.

This is the latest installment of our Outbreak Wisconsin collaboration. Read and listen to the full series here

If your child is eligible for free or reduced price school meals and has spent at least one day in virtual learning this school year, you are eligible to receive money for meals, even if you picked up meals from school distribution sites like this one at ALBA School. Credit: Adam Carr / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

‘My kids deserve to eat’: Wisconsin officials fail to get food assistance to thousands of poor children

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — April 8, 2021 

Wisconsin has failed to send food assistance to tens of thousands of poor children who are supposed to be getting extra help because they have been learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Under a federal program created last spring, the families of students who qualify for subsidized meals in Wisconsin schools are supposed to receive $6.82 to cover food for every day their children are not in school buildings and are instead learning virtually. That amounts to about $1,250 for the school year for students who are attending school entirely virtually. But tens of thousands of students haven’t gotten their benefits because the state Department of Public Instruction didn’t collect the addresses of all students.

Related from Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: Here’s what to do if you haven’t received pandemic-related school lunch benefits

The byline "Wisconsin Watch" represents members of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism's editorial and public engagement and marketing staff.