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Forum scheduled to discuss homelessness and need in Chippewa Falls area

A forum will discuss ongoing efforts to address homelessness this week in Chippewa Falls.

The forum, sponsored by the Chippewa Council on Homelessness and Hunger, will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at First Presbyterian Church, located at 130 W. Central St. in Chippewa Falls.

The discussion will focus on discussion on issues that impact the ability of individuals and families to maintain affordable permanent housing.

The group includes representatives of the Family Resource Center, the Chippewa County Housing Authority, veterans groups, faith-based groups and others.

Tom Diel, a social worker with the Chippewa County Recovery Wellness Consortium, said that aside from the forums to broaden the discussion to include the public in the Chippewa Falls area, the groups meet monthly at the Legacy Center.

“It’s kind of a cross section of different nonprofits and providers in the community,” Diel said.

The group has been working together for about six years, since the closure of the nonprofit Starting Points created a gap in services for the needy and homeless.

They put on two forums in the fall, and a third in January was canceled due to weather.

Diel said so far they’ve had good turnout from the community.

Thursday’s meeting will continue to follow up on the working groups formed to address the specific issues they identified.

Among the identified problems is the lack of affordable housing, the lack of an organization to be a central point of intake for people seeking assistance and information, and the lack of an emergency shelter in the area.

Though a temporary overnight warming area was made available during some of the most severe weather this winter, there is no permanent area.

Diel noted that while there is money available for motel room vouchers, the funding is limited.

“We’re really going to focus on emergency shelter,” Diel said.

Member organizations are coming together to fill the other needs as well.

The Legacy Community Center helps provide services in a coordinated manner.

That includes a food bank, coordinated intake services to help people find and get referred to services, and Agnes’ Table.

A project of the Chippewa County Council on Homelessness and Hunger, Agnes Table serves free breakfast three times a week and dinner twice a week.

“We’re really going to focus on emergency shelter.” Tom Diel, social worker

BRANDON BERG, Chippewa Herald 

The McDonell boys basketball team gets some work in on Monday afternoon at McDonell in preparation for its Division 5 state tournament semifinal on Friday morning. For more on the Macks, see sports on Page B1.

Trump's record $4.7 trillion budget relies on strong growth

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump proposed a record $4.7 trillion federal budget for 2020 on Monday, relying on optimistic 3.1 percent economic growth projections alongside accounting shuffles and steep domestic cuts to bring future spending into promised balance in 15 years.

The deficit is projected to hit $1.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, the highest in a decade. The administration is counting on robust growth, including from the Republican tax cuts — which Trump wants to make permanent — to push down the red ink. Some economists, though, say the bump from the tax cuts is waning, and they project slower growth in coming years. The national debt is $22 trillion.

Even with his own projections, Trump’s budget would not come into balance for a decade and a half, rather than the traditional hope of balancing in 10.

Still, Trump contended the nation is experiencing “an economic miracle.” He said in a letter to Congress accompanying the plan that the country’s next step must be “turbocharging the industries of the future and establishing a new standard of living for the 21st century.”

Presidential budgets tend to be seen as aspirational blueprints, rarely becoming enacted policy, and Trump’s proposal for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, sets up a showdown with Congress over priorities, including his push for $8.6 billion to build the U.S-Mexico border wall.

Titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” Trump’s proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility,” said Russ Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Despite the large projected deficits, Vought said the administration has “prioritized reining in reckless Washington spending” and shows “we can return to fiscal sanity.”

The budget calls the approach “MAGAnomics,” after the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Some fiscal watchdogs, though, panned the effort as more piling on of debt by Trump with no course correction in sight.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said Trump “relies on far too many accounting gimmicks and fantasy assumptions and puts forward far too few actual solutions.” She warned the debt load will lead to slower income growth and stalled opportunities for Americans.

Perhaps most notably among spending proposals, Trump is reviving his border wall fight. Fresh off the longest government shutdown in history, his 2020 plan shows he is eager to confront Congress again over the wall.

Trump’s budget proposes increasing defense spending to $750 billion — and building the new Space Force as a military branch — while reducing nondefense accounts by 5 percent, with cuts recommended to economic safety-net programs used by many Americans. The $2.7 trillion in proposed spending cuts over the decade is higher than any administration in history, they say.

The budget imposes work requirements for those receiving food stamps and other government aid as part of the cutbacks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development faces a 16 percent cut and for Education, a 12 percent reduction.

Trump’s budget would re-open two health care battles he lost in his first year in office: repealing “Obamacare” and limiting future federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people. Under the budget, both programs would be turned over to the states starting in 2021.

The plan sticks to budget caps that both parties have routinely broken in recent years. To stay within the caps, the budget shifts a portion of the defense spending, some $165 billion, to an overseas contingency fund, which some fiscal hawks will view as an accounting gimmick.

Conservatives railed for years against deficits that rose during the first years of Barack Obama’s administration as tax revenue plummeted and spending increased during the Great Recession. But even with Republican control of Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration, deficits were on a steady march upward.

The top Democrat on the Appropriation Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said the budget is “not a serious proposal.”

By refusing to raise the budget caps, Trump is signaling a fight ahead. The president has resisted big, bipartisan budget deals that break the caps — threatening to veto one last year — but Congress will need to find agreement on spending levels to avoid another federal shutdown in the fall.

The Democratic chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, called the proposed cuts to essential services “dangerous.” He said Trump added nearly $2 trillion to deficits with the GOP’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, and now it appears his budget asks the American people to pay the price,” the Democrat said.

While pushing down spending in some areas, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the proposal will seek to increase funding in others to align with the president’s priorities, according to one official.

The administration would boost Veterans Affairs funding by $6.5 billion, or 7.5 percent, and says reducing veteran suicides would be a top priority.

The budget provides $291 million to “defeat the HIV/AIDS epidemic” with hopes of eliminating 90 percent of new infections within 10 years. It would also increase resources to fight the opioid epidemic with money for prevention, treatment, research and recovery, the administration said.

'You make such a connection': Chippewa Valley monument business owners to retire

After years working in the area, a local monument business is closing up shop.

Jake and Sandi Hoff, owners of Chippewa Monument Co. on County Hwy. X in the town of Wheaton, have decided to retire after decades in their business.

The Hoffs said that since opening the business in the early 1990s, they’ve enjoyed working with the community, proving comfort and telling stories of loved one’s lives through the monuments.

Jake said that throughout the whole process, if you can make someone’s experience a little better, that’s most important.

“It’s been a long journey, I hate to give it up,” Jake said. “It’s a passion of mine.”

Sandi noted that after spending lengths of time consulting with families and people planning for their own funerals, they become familiar with their customers, and Jake is often greeted while out around the town.

“You get to be almost friends,” Sandi said.

Jake began working in the monument business around 50 years ago in South Dakota. After marrying Sandi, they moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to her family.

After moving to Chippewa Falls, Jake worked for a different monument business before starting his own.

The Hoffs both noted the changes in the industry throughout the time they’ve been working.

In the beginning, Jake did his own sand-blasting, sketching and etching of markers.

Now, intricate designs can be customized to include animals and scenery to represent the deceased’s life, and are etched and laser cut into the stone.

While the Hoffs are not taking new orders, they will be delivering all their spring orders in time for Memorial Day.

After their business is finished, they’re planning to relocate to the La Crosse area.

Both said that working with the customers and their families has been the most enjoyable aspect of their business.

“It’s been a pretty unique community,” Jake said.

That community was mostly within their 50-mile radius, though had included deliveries as far as Milwaukee.

“Meeting the people, working with the people, you make such a connection,” Sandi said. “That’s the enjoyable part.”

“It’s been a long journey, I hate to give it up. It’s a passion of mine.” Jake Hoff, co-owner of Chippewa Monument Co.

Evan Vucci Wong Maye-E 

Trump (left)

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Former Lake Hallie business owner found guilty of business and gambling crimes

A former Village of Lake Hallie business owner was found guilty of operating after revocation of a seller’s permit and commercial gambling crimes, according to a release from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

The Chippewa County Circuit Court found Melissa S. Christianson of Eleva guilty of intentionally and unlawfully permitting video gambling machines to be set up for gambling in a place under her control and for operating as a seller without a seller’s permit.

Christianson pleaded no contest to the charges in February.

According to the criminal complaint, a June 2017 investigation by Special Agents of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Unit found that Christianson was operating Missy’s Bar and Grill, 1507 County Highway OO after her seller’s permit had been revoked.

In the investigation, Christianson was found in possession of five operational video gambling machines at her bar as well.

Christianson was fined by the court for the video gambling violation and the motherboards were taken from the video gambling machines as contraband.

According to the Department of Revenue, Christianson also entered a plea of a 12-month agreement with the Diversion and Deferred Prosecution Program. If Christianson successfully completes the program, the charge for operating after the seller’s permit had been revoked will be reduced to an ordinance for disorderly conduct.

Melissa S. Christianson of Eleva was found guilty of unlawfully permitting video gambling machines in a place under her control and for operating as a seller without a seller’s permit.