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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Issue of the Week: Small Businesses Get Health Insurance Relief

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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One of the most challenging things about running a small business is providing adequate health care coverage for employees. Since the pool of workers is so small, these companies just don’t have the large risk pool that big corporations or institutions have and they wind up with low-quality or very expensive policies. Well, that’s changing as we speak, thanks to national health care reform passed this year. Beginning in 2010, businesses with fewer than 25 workers who make on average less than $50,000 will be eligible for a tax credit for the health insurance they provide to their workers. That credit can go as high as 35% of the cost of the policy—and the smallest companies stand to gain the most. A new report from Families USA and Small Business Majority found that 87% of small businesses in Wisconsin will be eligible for this benefit—roughly 86,000 small firms. Then, in 2014, these businesses will be able to purchase policies on the soon-to-launch health insurance exchanges.

So when you hear tea partiers and Republicans decrying “Obamacare” and the “government takeover of health care,” think about the small-business owners and entrepreneurs who will benefit this year from health care reform. They—and their employees—will thrive, thanks to the government’s help.

Event of the Week

Riverwest Neighborhood Association Benefit

Bordered on the north by Capitol Drive, the west by Richards Street, and the east and south by the Milwaukee River, Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood is a diverse, eclectic, mixed-income enclave. Home to some of the city’s most popular events, such as Locust Street Festival, Rockerbox Motorcycle Show & Street Party (Aug. 7) and this weekend’s 24-hour bicycle race (RW24), Riverwest is a vibrant residential community. 

The Riverwest Neighborhood Association (www.my-rna.org) will host a fund-raiser Friday, July 30, at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (1001 E. Locust St.). Beginning “around 8:30 p.m.” and featuring music from Uncle Larry, the event aims to raise money for a color map and guide to the many unique businesses and events in this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.

Hero of the Week

Sherry Allen

The Salvation Army of Greater Milwaukee relies on volunteers to help with its many programs and services, such as its “Feed the Kids” summer meals program that delivers more than 90,000 lunches to area children. For the past seven years, Sherry Allen, together with her husband and eight children, has been helping to distribute food to those in need.

Salvation Army Community Relations Director Faithe Colas says Allen is “extremely committed to the community.” In addition to working a full-time job, Allen makes time to volunteer at the Salvation Army’s food pantry, assist in the Christmas Family Feast, help with the “Coats for Kids” drive and wrap toys for children of incarcerated parents. “I can’t begin to describe her level of volunteerism,” Colas adds.

Readers who wish to join Allen and her family of super-volunteers in staffing the Salvation Army’s programs are encouraged to call (414) 302-4300 or visit www.samilwaukee.org.

Jerk of the Week

Senate Candidate Ron Johnson

So much for principles! Multimillionaire businessman Ron Johnson, who told a reporter he supports drilling for oil “where it is”—including the Great Lakes—also happens to own between $116,000 and $315,000 in BP stock, a company he’s defended since its disastrous oil spill in the Gulf. So the right thing to do would be to sell the stock or to put it in a blind trust just to prove that his investment doesn’t have any impact on his political views, right? Well, not so fast. Johnson has toyed with selling the stock and the blind trust concept, but he has done neither. His latest line is to say that he might sell the stock to help finance his campaign (which he’s already loaned at least $1.4 million to). “I think that’ll eventually happen,” Johnson said to Wispolitics.com about selling the stock, “but I’m going to do it based on market conditions.” So he may do the right thing—provided the price is right.