Legislature Approves COVID-19 Civil Liability Immunity and Tax Relief Bills

Despite much of the attention in the State Capitol focused on the $91 billion two-year state budget proposal unveiled by Governor Tony Evers (D) earlier this month, the Legislature did recently take action on two significant COVID-related bills to provide much-needed relief to Wisconsin business. Please see below a brief overview of each bill:

  • COVID-19 Civil Liability Immunity – Earlier this week, the Legislature passed a comprehensive unemployment insurance reform bill – Special Session Senate Bill 1. Before passage, the bill was amended to include language WEDA strongly supports to provide immunity for businesses and other entities from civil liability for a COVID-19-related injury or death, except in the case of reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. The immunity is retroactive to claims accruing on or after March 1, 2020, but does not apply to an action filed before enactment of the bill. Gov. Evers has signed the bill into law as 2021 Wisconsin Act 4.
  • Paycheck Protection Program; CARES Act Tax Relief – On Feb. 16 , the Legislature passed a wide-ranging state tax code bill – Assembly Bill 2 – that adopts various recent federal tax law changes for the purposes of state income and franchise taxes. Most importantly, it federalizes Wisconsin tax law with respect to treatment of loans under the paycheck protection program and deduction of expenses paid with funds from such loans. In addition, the bill provides an exemption of income from state income and franchise tax, and allows deduction of expenses paid from such income, for income received from certain economic support programs funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund created under the federal CARES Act (e.g., We’re All In grants). The bill was signed into law by Gov. Evers as 2021 Wisconsin Act 1.