Eau Claire County Courthouse

What started seven months ago as an inquiry into DHS financial practices has progressed into a criminal investigation that includes a forensic audit.

EAU CLAIRE — Most Eau Claire County employees can still be paid through at least March 31 if they miss work because of COVID-19.

The Eau Claire County Board approved a resolution during its meeting Tuesday night that essentially extended the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The FFCRA, which was signed into law on March 18 and expired on Dec. 31, granted some employees up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave related to COVID-19, including if someone needed to quarantine, take care of someone in quarantine or stay home with a child whose school or day care closed.

The resolution does not offer any additional paid leave, so a county employee who has already exhausted all 80 hours of pay would not receive any extra hours. An employee who has used 20 hours, for example, would still have 60 hours available. The benefits will last through the end of March and can be extended again by the County Board if necessary.

The financial impact of the resolution over the next two-plus months is unknown but should be relatively small. Between April 1 and Dec. 18, 2020, $137,300 was paid in emergency paid sick leave, according to a fact sheet provided to supervisors by Jessica Rubin, director of the county Human Resources Department. That is an average of about $16,000 per month.

Local mask ordinance

The County Board did not vote on an ordinance that would require people ages 5 and older in Eau Claire County to wear face masks in public buildings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ordinance would only apply if a state mask mandate expires or is struck down. Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday issued an order extending the current state mandate through March 20.

The ordinance was presented to the County Board Tuesday on first reading, meaning no action was taken.

By vote of 24-4, the County Board denied a motion to suspend Robert’s Rules of Order and act on the item. If the suspension of rules had been approved, supervisors would have voted on the ordinance proposal. The motion was denied, though, so the board should vote on the ordinance during its Feb. 17 meeting.

The local ordinance is very similar to the existing state mandate, but it includes the requirement for businesses to post mask notices, which is not part of the state order. If approved, the local ordinance would end on June 30. The County Board and City Council also have the option to repeal it at an earlier date.

The board received about 20 written public comments opposing the local ordinance and about 10 written public comments supporting the ordinance. Three public commenters also spoke against the ordinance.

COVID-19 vaccinations

The County Board received a COVID-19 update from Lieske Giese, Eau Claire City-County Health Department director.

As of Tuesday, Giese said 6,543 COVID-19 vaccinations have occurred in the county.

“Every vaccine dose that comes into Eau Claire County is getting into an arm,” Giese said. “We’re just not getting enough supply. The demand is increasing now that we have more groups that are eligible to receive vaccines.”

Other business

The board approved a resolution supporting increased state funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers in Wisconsin. The resolution asks for an additional $27.4 million in general purpose revenue funding in the 2021-23 state biennial budget to address ADRC needs.

The board passed a proclamation naming Feb. 4, 2021 “Transit Equity Day.”

The board officially welcomed new County Clerk Sue McDonald.

The next County Board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17.