Update from Your State Treasurer: Looking Back at 2020 and Getting Ready for 2021

Wisconsin Office of the State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski

Dear Wisconsinites - 

2020 wasn’t the year any of us planned. To address the unimaginable consequences of the pandemic, the State Treasurer's office is working to make sure the recovery reaches Wisconsin's working families by investing to bridge the digital divide in education, preventing foreclosures, expanding access to retirement, and advocating for federal aid for Wisconsin communities and small businesses

Despite this unprecedented year, I’m proud of the strides we’ve made and wanted to share a few of our 2020 accomplishments. I look forward to continuing to serve as your State Treasurer and know you can reach me anytime at treasurer@wisconsin.gov.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021,

Treasurer Godlewski signature

2020 Year End Newsletter

Investing in Education

As the State Treasurer, I serve as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). A major responsibility is overseeing the financial performance of four trusts funds with assets that exceed $1.2 billion that support our public schools and universities. 

Record Distribution - $38.2 Million: This year we made a record-setting distribution of $38.2 million that financed technology and books for all public schools in our state.

Emergency funds will help schools provide equitable access... quote from Micki Uppena, WEMTA

Addressing the Digital Divide During COVID: When the pandemic hit our state, teachers had to teach remotely and many schools were not equipped to do so successfully. In April, we stepped up and made a special distribution of $5.25 million to purchase online resources such as e-learning books and hotspots. As Superintendent Standford Taylor stated, “These special funds offer immediate assistance to Wisconsin students during this unprecedented time. This aid... directly addresses Wisconsin’s digital divide and will help meet students’ remote learning needs.”

Click here to see a video about the announcement of the special distribution.

Scholarships & Grants - $900,000: Additionally, the BCPL’s Normal School Fund announced $900,000 in grants and scholarships for the UW System - nearly doubling the amount from 2019. This distribution provides funding for a variety of different programs and initiatives throughout the UW system, and I had an opportunity to speak with a recent graduate about the impact the BCPL scholarship had on his education and future. Click on the video below:

Treasurer Godlewski Normal School Fund Interview

Ensuring Economic Security for Wisconsinites

Homeowners Task Force: On March 4, my office launched the Treasurers’ Homeowners Task Force to help Wisconsinites buy, maintain, and stay in their homes. When the pandemic set in, the Task Force immediately went into action - generating meaningful solutions that would help Wisconsinites.

  • COVID-19 Foreclosure Prevention Program: This innovative program identifies newly-delinquent taxpayers and reaches out to them proactively with cash assistance and financial coaching. Missing a property tax payment not only starts the foreclosure process, but it also involves significant fines and fees amounting to 16-18% interest - making it difficult to catch-up. In partnership with Couleecap and the La Crosse County Treasurer Amy Twitchell, we are piloting this effort in La Crosse with the hope to expand across the state. 
  • Taxpayer Empowerment: The Task Force created resources to empower taxpayers including a website on everything you could ever need to know about property taxes. Other resources include financial literacy curriculum for high schoolers and citizen-friendly templates to assist  local treasurers when communicating on property tax issues.
  • Statewide Homeownership Network: The great work of the Homeowners Task Force to  help Wisconsinites buy, maintain, and stay in their homes will continue - thanks to the development of a new, statewide network!  We will have more to announce on this initiative in the coming months so stay tuned!
Statewide Network Coming Soon
AARP Supersaver Award

Retirement Security: As Chair of the Governor’s Retirement Security Task Force, we have partnered with leaders across the state to develop pragmatic, cost effective measures to ensure all Wisconsinites can retire with dignity. A recent survey by AARP found that 88% of registered voters in Wisconsin do not feel financially prepared to retire and wish they saved more. Their concerns have merit. A University of Wisconsin study on senior poverty found an additional 400,000 seniors in Wisconsin will be living in poverty by 2030, and the state will have to spend an additional $3.5 billion on public assistance programs.

It is clear today’s retirement system is not working for many Wisconsinites and state action is essential. The Task Force has been hard at work, and we look forward to sharing our recommendations this February with the Governor and all of you!

Your Fiscal Watchdog: Advocating for Small Businesses and Local Communities

Teaming up with County Treasurer to Protect Essential Services: Our local governments fund services that are essential to our citizens and small businesses - most notably, the firefighters, EMTs, teachers, and other public servants who are the lifelines of our communities. Yet, the unanticipated and unbudgeted expenses from COVID-19 coupled with the precipitous loss in revenue place many Wisconsin communities in a dire financial position. One county treasurer reported that they are looking at permanent layoffs and potential furloughs. I was proud to work in a bipartisan manner with the County Treasurers to address these financial uncertainties by raising awareness with Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation. You can read our letter here

Supporting Our Local Communities - $79 million: In the early weeks of the pandemic, we wasted no time reaching out to local officials to make sure they knew about the BCPL’s State Trust Fund Loan Program and to hear how our office can better serve as a resource during this unprecedented time. I'm incredibly proud that we were able to approve funding for over 150 projects for a total of nearly $79 million. Recently, we approved $300,000 for the City of Middleton’s economic relief loan program aimed at supporting small businesses.

BCPL 2020 loans since COVID

Fighting for Small Businesses: By definition, small businesses often have the fewest resources. Despite their best efforts to plan for financial uncertainty, COVID-19 is something no one ever imagined. That’s why my office stepped up to advocate for workers and for small businesses. When the pandemic hit, we partnered with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and local chambers to host virtual town halls to understand business owners’ concerns and share information about developing resources. Further, we reached out to our elected officials in Washington to advocate for changes with the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that funds support small business not corporations. You can read my letter here. As we head into 2021, I’m committed to continuing to fight for our small businesses and workers. 

More to come in 2021...

  • NEW WEBSITE COMING. Our office will be rolling out a new and improved website early next year so we can more readily share the work we're doing for Wisconsin.
  • Retirement Security Task Force Recommendations Report: Coming in February
  • Homeowners Task Force Report: Coming this Spring
  • Unclaimed Property Promotion. Have lost property or money? You might!        The State Treasurer's Office works to return property to its rightful owners from uncashed death benefit checks to inactive savings accounts. Throughout the year, we have been connecting people with their unclaimed property and have more outreach efforts planned for 2021. To learn more about Unclaimed Property click here, and you can check if you have any unclaimed property here or by calling (608) 264-4594.

Keep In Touch

If you would like to stay connected with our office, please don't hesitate to:

Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!

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