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Wis. lawmakers OK bill giving wellness grants to small employers


Wisconsin lawmakers have unanimously approved legislation establishing a grant program for small businesses that sponsor workplace wellness programs for their employees.

The Healthy Jobs Act — S.B. 73/A.B. 78 — would reimburse employers with 50 or fewer full-time workers for up to 30% of their annual workplace wellness expenses through a $3 million-a-year grant program administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

“By implementing these programs, participating businesses not only have the chance to improve the well-being and productivity of their workers, but can also curb long-term costs associated with chronic disease, reducing the burden on businesses and the state,” Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement Tuesday.

The legislation was sent Wednesday to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it into law.

To qualify for the reimbursement, an employer's workplace wellness program must be implemented on or after the legislation's effective date and must provide a health risk assessment, biometric screening and one or more of the additional health management initiatives outlined in the legislation: chronic disease management, weight management, stress management, injury prevention and nutrition education.

Introduced in March 2013, the legislation was originally drafted as a tax credit program but was changed to a grant program via an amendment passed by the state Senate in November.

The state Assembly also added an amendment to the proposed law capping the length of the grant program at five years.