In response to the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, UW-Madison Division of Extension temporarily overhauled its service delivery model. By moving youth development trainings to an online format and preparing easy-to-use roadmaps for financial assistance, Extension researchers and educators provide valuable resources at a confusing and concerning time.
School and business closures in addition to the “safer at home” order prompted Extension to cancel or postpone all in-person workshops, trainings, consultations, and visits. This also applied to the volunteer and partner groups affiliated with Extension, such as 4-H, Master Gardener, and more. These events typically serve as a touchpoint between University knowledge and the public; continuing to provide that link is a key priority for Extension during the pandemic. Recognizing the usual collaborative opportunities aren’t available, Extension staff is engaging with stakeholders and their neighbors in new ways.
“Extension remains focused on sharing trusted resources and strengthening communities as we adapt and learn in response to this emergency situation,” said Karl Martin, Interim Dean & Director of UW-Madison Extension.
Additionally, examples of these innovative delivery methods from across the state are being captured on an online Extension resource dedicated to COVID-19 response (https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/covid19) and include:
Financial resources to help get through COVID-19
Managing your personal finances in tough times is an Extension program and one that takes on a new importance in the face of sudden unemployment and financial insecurity. Extension researchers developed a roadmap of guidance for finding answers to difficult questions such as Am I eligible for any public health insurance or food assistance, Can I get emergency paid sick leave, What if I can’t pay my rent, and more. “Most of us have our daily spending on autopilot. Having to change our routines can also provide an opportunity to rethink our household spending for the coming months,” said Peggy Olive, UW-Madison Extension Financial Capability Specialist.
Facing impacts of COVID-19 on small business
Extension has specialists committed to responding to the needs of small businesses during the pandemic. Extensive resources can be accessed through the Center for Community Economic Development or by tapping into local resources from partner agencies.
Facing the impacts of COVID-19 on farming
Extension provides a number of tools for managing animals and a farm workforce in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Extension researchers have produced business preparedness, worker safety, and commodity price resources for farmers and agriculture workers across Wisconsin to use. “Farms have unique challenges with the rapidly spreading COVID-19. We are telling farm managers and owners to make sure their employees understand the primary concern is their health and the health of their families and measures are in place to ensure long and productive careers at the farm,” said Trisha Wagner, Farm Management Outreach Program Manager for Extension.
Extension’s resource site for responding to COVID-19 (https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/covid19) also lists tools for families, personal health, and more, such as:
- Navigating COVID-19 for small businesses and non-profit organizations
- Helping children feel safe and talking about emotions during scary events
- Virtual meetings and trainings for 4-H youth and clubs
- Food safety and the implications of COVID-19 on grocery stores and takeout
These resources can be found on UW-Madison Extension’s COVID-19 page: https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/covid19.