UW–Madison Extension provides tailored community resources to respond to COVID-19

March 30, 2020

In response to the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 virus outbreak, the 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 provided 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 that the usual collaborative opportunities aren’t available, Extension staff are 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,” says Karl Martin, interim dean and director of UW–Madison Extension.

Extension staff are transitioning its programming to remote delivery. Consultations can be held over the phone or videoconference. Educational programming can be held online. Meetings and partner outreach can be conducted via the internet. During the initial spread of the virus in Wisconsin, Extension staff were busy postponing events and making plans for remote work. Now the bulk of the work is performing existing functions in an alternative method. Some of these innovative delivery methods are being captured on an online Extension resource dedicated to COVID-19 response 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,” says Peggy Olive, UW–Madison Extension financial capability specialist.

FACING THE IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON FARMING

Extension provides a number of tools for managing animals and the 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.

“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,” says Trisha Wagner, farm management outreach program manager for Extension.

OTHER RESOURCES

Extension’s resource site for responding to COVID-19 also lists tools for families, personal health and more, such as:

  • Navigating COVID-19 for small businesses and nonprofit 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