August 2020 | Vol 5
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The MKE Civic Response Team Update provides news and information about our community’s strategic response to COVID-19 and coordinated efforts to change systems in greater Milwaukee for the better.


Civic Response Snapshots

The MKE Civic Response Team contributes to progress and informs strategy on relief and recovery efforts across a range of intersecting community priorities. Recent activities include: 

Public policy and advocacy work takes shape

United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County’s Public Policy & Advocacy Committee has expanded its scope and membership to advance the public policy and advocacy priorities of the MKE Civic Response Team at the federal, state and local levels. Each of the cross-sector teams that constitute the broader coalition had identified public policy as a critical lever for achieving the long-term systems change collaborators seek.

Launched in 2016, United Way’s Public Policy & Advocacy Committee promotes systemic community change in the areas of health, education and financial stability. Comprised of corporate leaders, community advocates and issue experts, the committee guides United Way’s engagement with policymakers, legislators and advocacy organizations. The expanded committee now includes a policy expert from each civic response work team to advance respective policy priorities.

In July, the committee met with the offices of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (facilitated by staffer Vanessa Llanas, a longstanding member of the MKE Civic Response Team), Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Gwen Moore to inform the ongoing federal response to COVID-19. Initial results include: 

  1. Invitation to Sen. Johnson’s office to join Civic Response Team meetings
  2. Collection and delivery of telehealth success stories to Rep. Moore’s office
  3. Advocacy for the Childcare is Essential Act with all three offices
  4. Engagement of Rep. Moore’s office to discuss CARES funding delays for the Continuum of Care
  5. Dialogue with Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Moore’s staff on proposed changes to the Community Reinvestment Act 

In addition to continued follow up with federal legislators, the committee’s next steps include developing engagement strategies for state and local policymakers.

New testing campaign speaks to diverse community

Thanks to support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s MKE Responds Fund, a new multi-lingual, multicultural COVID-19 testing outreach and education campaign is slated to launch soon. Developed with talent from INPOWER, a Milwaukee-based, minority and women owned marketing firm, the TestUpMKE campaign will provide the latest information about where, why and when to get COVID-19 tests as well as important resources for communities of color and those who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

“We’ve had a diverse team of communications experts helping shape the goals of the TestUp outreach plan,” says Alison True, communications director, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers and TestUpMKE committee chairperson. “And, we’re delighted to be fighting COVID together with the terrific work that MaskUpMKEYou Matter and Creative Health Collective campaigns are doing to advance health equity.”

TestUpMKE’s efforts will include a variety of grassroots communications and social media, along with a website in five languages (English, Spanish, Hmong, Arabic and Burmese). With significant confusion and misinformation about types of COVID tests, the importance of contact tracing, and the role of testing in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, TestUpMKE will soon become the ‘go-to’ source for the most up-to-date testing information in the Milwaukee community.

Advocating for early childhood education

Letters authored by early childhood education advocates within the MKE Civic Response Team are making the case to state and federal officials that the sector needs greater investment from government.

A letter to Gov. Tony Evers requests state support to meet Milwaukee child care providers’ profound need for supplies such as personal protective equipment, thermometers and cleaning products to maintain health and safety for children, families and staff. This advocacy has had an impact, as the Department of Children and Families has indicated that the state plans to provide early childhood education programs with key supplies in the coming weeks, which will complement and expand what the Team has been able to purchase and distribute so far through support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s MKE Responds Fund.

A letter to the Wisconsin Congressional delegation has asked representatives to support a $50 billion investment in early childhood education – the amount experts say is necessary to truly stabilize the sector. This request was made in conjunction with diverse advocates from across the country, and on July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Child Care is Essential Act, which includes this $50 billion investment. Advocates are now looking for the Senate to make a corresponding commitment.

Milwaukee Succeeds, the communitywide educational partnership launched and housed by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, is providing key leadership in this collective effort.

Many hands make light work

A new, federally funded program hosted by Employ Milwaukee is training, employing and deploying more than 100 people as Community Resource Navigators to meet a variety of pressing community needs. The MKE Civic Response Team has helped facilitate connections among partners, prospective work sites and potential applicants for the program. Read the story >>

Team Voices

Danielle Nabak, RD, healthy communities coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Extension, Milwaukee County, describes how MKE Civic Response Team partners who are working to increase access to healthy food are shifting focus from emergency service provision in response to COVID-19 to systems change through complementary efforts and collaboration.

To connect with the MKE Civic Response Team,
contact Ian Bautista,

MKE Civic Response Team Update is produced by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation on behalf of the MKE Civic Response Team.

Copyright © 2020 Greater Milwaukee Foundation, All rights reserved.

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