The COVID-19 pandemic currently changes our lifestyles, and day to day activities adjust around updates on the disease. The Ho-Chunk Nation works diligently to protect our communities, our employees, and our tribal members. President Marlon White Eagle declared a state of emergency for the Ho-Chunk Nation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13.
The declaration included limitations on employment-related travel outside Wisconsin and between work sites. It also presented a request for departments to explore implementing communication technology and other solutions that will limit social interaction. All meetings of public boards and committees administered by the President are suspended except for critical meetings.
On March 17, President White Eagle signed orders for all Ho-Chunk Gaming sites to transition to critical functions as soon as practical but no later than March 20 at midnight. The order also closed all gaming facilities to the public. Anticipated re-opening is April 4 but could change.
March 18, the Ho-Chunk Nation Courts released an Administrative Order regarding court operations. Chief Justice Todd R. Matha and Chief Trial Court Judge Jo Deen B. Lowe signed off on emergency, temporary measures that remain in effect until further notice. The Judiciary is remaining operational at this time and will make every effort to address emergency cases.
The Court will operate by telecommuting capacities, and the offices are closed to non-essential personnel. The Judiciary follows social distancing during hearings and other interactions at the Courthouse. A temporary electronic filing process goes into effect on March 18. All court filings are to be emailed and no fee requirement at this time.
Also, on March 18, Vice President Karena Thundercloud issued a memo stating Legislative Area Meetings are postponed for the time being to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the Ho-Chunk Nation membership and employees.
On March 19, President White Eagle released a memo to tribal members. He announced that the Nation is currently working on suspending government operations with the following measures taken: layoff plans developed to reduce payroll expenses; services being transitioned to critical only; a task force designed to address any possible federal or state aid; all contracting and purchasing has been suspended for non-emergency services or goods; and an immediate hiring freeze. Also noted was that the Legislature approved the May 2020 Per Capita Distribution.
On March 20, White Eagle signs orders requiring the Executive Branch non-enterprise departments to transition to critical functions as soon as practicable but no later than March 23 at midnight. A separate order discouraged mass gatherings of ten or more people. Meetings of less than ten should follow social distancing and other public health recommendations.
Also, on March 20, a memo was released by the Office of the President announcing the Ho-Chunk Legislature passed changes to the Employment Relations Act (ERA) and the Computer Usage Act proposed by the Executive Branch leaders to protect employees amid closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes to the ERA were specific to layoff scenarios, alternate worksites and job duties, and flexibility in work schedules. In addition, the recall and rehire periods are extended from six months to 12 months.
The changes to the Computer Usage Act allows employees to use personal computers during emergency declarations.
March 20 also marked the closing of the Office of General Council building, and personnel is only available via telephone and email communications. The tentative re-open date is April 6.
On March 21, a memo was released from Vice President Karena Thundercloud to all tribal members and employees in regards to COVID-19. The Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature is limiting travel, canceling non-essential meetings, and staying educated on the pandemic.
The memo also announced the process of reducing the workforce and coordinating critical government services. Food Distribution and elder meals will continue to operate. Additionally, the May 2020 Per Capita Distribution was approved.
The Ho-Chunk Nation and its partners work diligently to protect our communities, our employees, and our tribal members. The situation is fluid, and constant updates are released. Check the Hocak Worak’s Facebook page for up to date notices.
Remember to remain conscientious while on social media. Find trusted sites that share useful information. Not all videos or photos appearing online are based on facts.
Regularly staying informed with the latest COVID-19 news can cause fear, stress, and anxiety. Support is available through the National Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. The helpline offers 24/7 confidential emotional support.
Alterations (alphabetical) as of March 24:
– Branch Offices closed (Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and St. Paul)
– CDL Training postponed until further notice
– Community Garden Planning Meetings canceled
– Department of Business Strategic Planning Meetings canceled
– Department of Justice Listening Session canceled
– Department of Labor, Safety Division suspending all training
– Department of Personnel announces hiring freeze effective March 18
– Diabetes Workshop in Baraboo canceled
– Executive Building department doors closed and locked
– Financial Literacy Event postponed until further notice
– Fitness Centers, activity rooms, and workout areas of the Nation are closed until lifted
– Flag Raising breakfasts at the Executive Building canceled
– Food and vendors at the Executive Building suspended until further notice
– Free Women’s Self-Defense Clinic canceled
– HCG-Wittenberg Vietnam Veterans Flag Raising event canceled
– Health & Wellness classes suspended
– Health & Wellness Medical Nutrition Therapy by phone only
– HHCDA will not take reservations for the Indian Mission, Blue Wing, Indian Heights, and Chakh-hah-Chee Community buildings until further notice
– Ho-Chunk Gaming – Black River Falls closes to the public March 19
– Ho-Chunk Gaming – Nekoosa closes to the public March 18
– Ho-Chunk Gaming – Tomah closes to the public March 18
– Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wisconsin Dells closes to the public March 18
– Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wittenberg closes to the public March 20
– Ho-Chunk Head Start Programs closures to follow local school districts
– Ho-Chunk Higher Education Division scholarship deadline of March 25 for spring 2020 term
– Ho-Chunk Language Division offices closed to protect Eminent Speakers and staff working remotely
– Ho-Chunk Nation Enrollment Division closed to the public with limited services
– Ho-Chunk Nation Gaming Commission Regular Monthly Meeting canceled until further notice
– Ho-Chunk Nation March Madness Basketball Tournament postponed indefinitely
– Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center closed for visitors
– Ho-Chunk Nation Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by appointment only
– Ho-Chunk Office of Tribal Enrollment suspending Tribal ID operations
– Homebuyer Education Classes postponed until further notice
– Juried Youth Art Show postponed
– Legislative Area Meetings postponed for the time being
– Life Skills Class at D1CC canceled until further notice
– Linking Generations Groups canceled
– Mothers of Tradition Group canceled
– National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event canceled
– Office of General Council close as of March 20 and re-open April 6
– Partners in Parenting (PIP) canceled
– Prek-12 Grant program no longer accepting applications as of March 19 for the remainder of the fiscal year
– QPR Gatekeeper Training event canceled
– Social Services, Tribal Aging Unit, and Youth Services buildings closed to non-staff except for deliveries
– Supreme Court rescheduled March 14 hearing with a date to be determined
– Temperature screening of employees at the Executive Building and Health Clinic
– Traditional Court is temporarily suspended for the health and well-being of our elders
– Trial and Specialty Courts request hearings via teleconference or video conferencing
– Tribal Aging Units closing congregate meal sites, but home-delivered meals will continue
– Vietnam Veterans Day event canceled
– Visitors at the Executive Building on limitations and restrictions
– Whitetail Crossing Convenience Stores reduced hours of operation to 7 AM to 9 PM
– Wills Caravan 2020 canceled
– Youth Employment Program 2020 postponed indefinitely