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An April 2022 Wisconsin Policy Forum report noted the $63 billion figure, compiled from a federal spreadsheet.
However, not all of the money was distributed by the state, or even local governments. Much of it went to businesses, families or individuals.
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has clashed for nearly three years with Republican lawmakers over how pandemic aid sent to the state was being spent.
Aid packages passed in 2020 and 2021 under then-President Donald Trump and later under President Joe Biden sent billions upon billions to Wisconsin. Much of that money has been solely controlled by Evers.
As the state grinds through budget season, at least one Republican lawmaker argues it’s that federal aid that has allowed Evers to tout successes, including a $7.1 billion budget surplus, the largest in state history.
"It is easy for Governor Evers to tout historic investments and record high surpluses because Wisconsin has seen over 63 billion dollars of federal pandemic-related funding funnel into our state over his tenure," state Sen. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said in a tweet and news release, issued in response to Evers’ State of the State address.
That’s an eye-popping number.
Was more than $63 billion in federal pandemic-related funding funnel sent to the state?
Let’s take a look.
When asked for backup, Ballweg’s staff pointed to an April 2022 research report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum, a nonpartisan, independent statewide policy research organization.
The report, titled "Despite massive influx, Wisconsin lagged most states in pandemic aid", noted that in Wisconsin, a greater percentage of money was directed to businesses and economic development than in other states. Then came a paragraph that is relevant here:
"Notably, the federal relief funds detailed above are only a fraction of the total awarded to state and local governments, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals in Wisconsin. Over the past two years, the state has been awarded at least $63.99 billion in federal pandemic funding, according to figures compiled by Federal Funds Information for States and provided by the Wisconsin Department of Administration."
Jason Stein, the forum’s vice president and research director, said the figure Ballweg cited is being accurately quoted, with a caveat that the report was released last year and "some of the numbers may have changed somewhat."
But there’s a more important consideration about the claim.
Ballweg leaves the impression that the pandemic relief money went largely to the state itself, when in reality the vast majority went to other governments or directly to businesses, families and individuals.
Tatyana Warrick, the state Department of Administration’s communications director, called the claim misleading.
"A significant share directly assisted recipients — small businesses in the form of Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and to individuals with Economic Impact Payments and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation," Warrick said in an email to PolitiFact Wisconsin.
Britt Cudaback, Evers’ communications director, said only about $5 billion of the federal pandemic-related funding Wisconsin has received was under the sole discretion of the governor to allocate. A Department of Administration spreadsheet provides a very precise figure: $4,846,838,315.96.
"The total overall federal pandemic relief funds … also include other funding passed through from the federal government to other governmental units (e.g., cities and counties), for noncompetitive grants, for direct individual assistance programs, to administer and implement federal programs or requirements, and other various investments and one-time supplements to existing programs as directed by the federal government," Cudaback said.
Ballweg said: "Wisconsin has seen over 63 billion dollars of federal pandemic-related funding funnel into our state over (Gov. Tony Evers') tenure."
Although the $63 billion in funding is on point, Evers direct controlled only about $5 billion of that. The rest went to other units of government, or directly to businesses, families and individuals through various programs.
However, this money still benefited the state’s economy, by keeping families afloat and people employed during the pandemic's depths.
For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification or additional information, our rating is Mostly True.
Sen. Joan Ballweg, Twitter, Jan. 24, 2023
Email, Drew Hanstedt, Legislative Aide, Sen. Joan Ballweg, Feb. 7, 2023
Email, Jason Stein, Wisconsin Policy Forum, Feb. 8, 2023
Email, Tatyana Warrick, communications director of the state Department of Administration, Feb. 17, 2023
Email Britt Cudaback, Evers’ communications director, March 9, 2023.
News release "Gov. Evers Delivers 2023 State of the State Address," Jan. 24, 2023
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Wisconsin Senate passes proposed constitutional amendment giving lawmakers power over federal funds," Jan. 25, 2022
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Tony Evers declares 2023 'the year of mental health' in his State of the State address," Jan. 24, 2023.
Wisconsin Policy Forum "Wisconsin Policy Forum | Despite massive influx, Wisconsin lagged most states in pandemic aid (wispolicyforum.org) April 2022.
Department of Administration "Discretionary Funds Allocations 2022"
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