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State News: Hemp, Child Care, DNC in Milwaukee

Child Care Worker Shortage Fueled By Low Wages

Despite efforts to produce more licensed child care workers in Wisconsin, it may take higher wages and better benefits to lure more people into the field. Licensed child care centers in the state, especially in rural areas, continue to struggle to attract and retain workers to care for children.

“It’s very common for us to hear from child care centers that a room that they once had open to care for four infants is now closed because they could not find qualified staff,” said Jodi Widuch, executive director of The Parenting Place.

The La Crosse-based regional agency provides free services and referrals to child care providers and families with the goal of improving the development of young children.

“Despite how incredibly important that caregiver’s role is for young children, it is not gainful employment in the state of Wisconsin right now,” Widuch said. “That’s really unfortunate because we need highly qualified folks to be caring for young children. They’re very vulnerable. What happens to them early in their years, both good and bad, stays with them for a lifetime.”

She said low hourly wages and a lack of benefits are the main reasons for the child care worker shortage in the state.

“Child care centers have a very hard time recruiting qualified staff members. Their biggest competitors are school districts because those early-childhood degrees are coveted by both public schools and child care. The compensation packages – you just can’t compare them – along with summers off when you’re working for a school district,” Widuch said.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) licenses and regulates child care in the state. According to DCF, there were 3,985 licensed child care centers statewide in 2018, versus 5,026 in 1998. Although the number of centers is down, their capacity has increased. In 1998, Wisconsin’s child care centers had 134,000 slots, whereas today there are more than 200,000 slots.

Barnes Confident Milwaukee 2020 DNC Committee Will Secure Funding

Organizers of Milwaukee’s bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention say they will know soon whether the city will host the event.

Right now organizers are hoping weather will play favorably in the decision as well as Wisconsin being a battleground state. But ensuring Milwaukee has enough money is also an issue. Organizers are looking for a third-party entity to guarantee a credit line of at least $10 million for the bid.

If Milwaukee is selected, it would cost $50 million to $60 million to stage the event, which was proposed to be held at the Fiserv Forum, where the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks play.

Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes serves on the convention bid committee and says the money will sort itself out because there is much for everyone to gain if the DNC comes to Milwaukee.

“That money comes back,” Barnes told WPR. “We’re talking about 40,000 people who have to get a hotel room; 40,000 people who have to eat; 40,000 people who want to do something besides … sit in a convention center all day. And with that being said, our business leaders recognize this.”

CBD Products Grow In Popularity

Cannabidiol, a derivative of industrial hemp, appears to be growing in popularity in Wisconsin for its claimed wellness benefits. In December, a Madison brewing company even launched CBD-infused beer and cocktails.

But despite the many advertised therapeutic uses of CBD products, quality control can vary. CBD can be made into everything from candy to oils to ointments, said James Valona, an owner of Verdant, a store that opened last month and sells CBD products in Milwaukee. Valona and other CBD enthusiasts tout the therapeutic benefits of the product, which they say is playing a role in its growing popularity.

“More and more people are talking about it. The effects of CBD are positive on so many people,” said Valona.

CBD can be extracted either from marijuana plants or its non-intoxicating cousin, hemp. Pure CBD oil doesn’t include the psychoactive ingredient THC that produces the high commonly associated with marijuana.

“Some people are taking it because it’s assisting with sleep, (for) some it assists with pain. Myself, I take it because I have arthritis in my right knee,” Valona said, adding that he found relief after two weeks of using CBD.

Joel Peterson is one the owners of Priceland Hemp in Black River Falls, one of the state’s early CBD business adopters. Priceland Hemp farms and processes its CBD on site, Peterson said. He said the company’s products can be found in 20 locations across the state, including health and wellness shops, vape shops and a suboxone clinic in Madison where people are being treated for addiction.

Still, the research available on CBD products is limited, and there’s little data on the long-term effects of using it. But there are new studies and promising data that suggest CBD could aid in preventing addiction relapses.

According to a National Institutes of Health database, there are at least 100 studies across the world involving CBD. Just this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a purified form of CBD oil for patients who are more than two years old and suffering from two rare forms of seizures.  

Milwaukee County Looks to Grow Hemp at Domes

Milwaukee County is considering growing and processing industrial hemp at the Mitchell Park Domes. Doing so could generate money for the Domes’ aging infrastructure and the Milwaukee County park system. It would also put Milwaukee County in the same category as a growing number of entities and businesses looking to explore the business of industrial hemp, which is now legal after decades of restrictions.

In November 2017, the state legalized the growing and processing of industrial hemp through the Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program. The 2018 Farm Bill signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also legalized industrial hemp at the federal level.

In Wisconsin, separate licenses are necessary to grow and process industrial help. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is accepting license applications for the 2019 program through the end of the year, and Milwaukee County intends to apply for one.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, who sponsored the resolution to apply for the state licenses, said there are many options to make hemp a lucrative business for the county. These options include education, seed certification or research for the federal government, Ortiz-Velez said.

Separately, Milwaukee County Parks has issued its own proposal for producing industrial hemp, hemp seeds and cannabinoid oil at the Domes.

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