Milwaukee Opens Salons, Gyms. Bars, Restaurants Remain Closed

City Using CARES Act Funds To Help Restart Small Businesses

customers wait for to get their nails done at the Nail Tech salon
In this May 6, 2020, file photo customers wait for to get their nails done at the Nail Tech salon in the Yuba Sutter Mall in Yuba City, Calif. California officials have named businesses that can start reopening now under rules aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but hair and nail salons are nowhere on that list. For more than a week, salon owners have clamored get back to work in California but Gov. Gavin Newsom has them slated for a later reopening date. Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

Milwaukee is lifting restrictions on some services with the release of a new order by the city health department. The changes come following the state Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday overturning Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order.

The city’s “Moving Milwaukee Forward,” order keeps restaurants and bars closed, but says salons and tattoo parlors can open with restrictions. Gyms in the suburbs can open with restrictions.

The Milwaukee plan is similar to one in Milwaukee County, which covers all of the county’s 19 suburbs and 11 health departments.

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Since the order was created late Thursday, Franklin and Cudahy have rescinded their orders.

“We have made some changes just in the last 24 hours because we are hoping we can bring more business back to life, but we want to do so in a way that is responsible and really preserves the public health,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “People should remember though, this is not a two year, even two-month process. We continue to evaluate the criteria. We continue to evaluate the progress. Our goal, as the goal of everyone else, is to continue to get life back to normal as soon as we can.”

According to the city, the state-wide “Safer at Home” order helped to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in Milwaukee County, which was one of the first areas of the state to be hit the hardest by the coronavirus.

Milwaukee County data shows an initial peak of COVID-19 cases in early April. But COVID-19 cases have been trending upward in recent weeks and have surpassed the previous peak according to the Milwaukee County Health Department.

With increasing testing capacity, Milwaukee officials anticipate increased detection of new COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks that will correspond with identifying significant community transmission.

On Friday, Milwaukee County had 4,694 COVID-19 cases and 233 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Milwaukee County Health Department.

Funds For Small Business

Barrett said a portion of the federal CARES Act relief funds the city receives will be used to establish a relief fund to help small businesses recover from COVID-19 related setbacks.

“From the outset, we’ve been fully aware that we are in the midst of more than a public health crisis; we face an enormous economic crisis, affecting workers and business owners,” Barrett said. “We’re very, very excited that we are able to use some of this money that is intended to deal with the fallout of COVID-19 to help us get life back to normal.”

Business owners with revenues less than $20 million and fewer than 20 employees will be eligible to apply. Barrett said there could be up to $20 million in the fund.

The money can be used for business owners to install personal protective equipment including plexiglass screens to protect workers or credit card machines so cashiers don’t have to deal with cash.

The city anticipates disbursing grants in the coming weeks, and, rather than a first-come-first-served application process, proposals from eligible businesses will be considered over an extended period of time.

Details of the program are being finalized, including the application process, the size of the grants and the total amount of funds available.

“By putting a size limit on the program, we’re making it clear this is for small, basically neighborhood businesses,” Barrett said.