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Governor Announces $100M In Aid For Wisconsin’s Small Businesses

Order Comes As Evers Administration Limits Many Businesses Statewide To 25 Percent Capacity

Rosebud Cinema in Wauwatosa, Wis.
An independent movie theater in Wauwatosa, Wis., is closed amid the coronavirus outbreak. Lisa Nalbandian/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers rolled out a plan to provide $100 million in aid to small businesses in Wisconsin, along with businesses involved in the lodging and tourism industry, according to a press release Tuesday.

“Small businesses, including the tourism and lodging industries, are the backbone of our Wisconsin communities. The ongoing pandemic, combined with a lack of action at the federal level may force many of these businesses to shutter their doors for good,” Evers said in a statement Tuesday. “That’s why we’re investing another $100 million in businesses and communities across our state. Our communities are in desperate need of additional federal support, but we can’t wait a moment longer to do what we can here in Wisconsin.”

The announcement from Evers came just hours before he announced a new emergency order limiting the size of most public indoor gatherings statewide to 25 percent capacity as cases of COVID-19 remain at or near all-time highs.

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The order received swift pushback from business groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which said in a statement Tuesday the order will “cause even more harm to already-suffering businesses while failing to actually slow the spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.”

Half of the aid announced Tuesday — or $50 million — will go toward a second round of “We’re All In Grants” to small businesses. The new aid will supply $5,000 grants to more than 10,000 businesses in the state. The grant program, which is run by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the state Department of Revenue, will prioritize some of the businesses that were hit hardest by the pandemic. This includes taverns, restaurants, hair and nail salons, and barber shops among others.

The Evers administration further announced a $20 million investment in the state’s lodging industry as many hotels deal with a sharp drop in tourism.

Live music and performance venues will receive $15 million under the plan. The release noted that many of the venues were “among the first small businesses to close and may be among the last to fully re-open.”

Privately owned movie theaters and nonprofit cultural venues will receive $10 million in aid each. An additional $4 million will go towards investments for destination marketing organizations and tourism drivers, according to the release.

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