Evers seeks help for small businesses hurt by COVID-19 emergency

By Benjamin Yount

Center Square News Service

MADISON - Help is on the way for small businesses in Wisconsin who are struggling with the coronavirus.

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday submitted a request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance because of the coronavirus.

“Social distancing and self-isolation are critical steps in reducing and preventing the spread of this virus in our communities, but it comes at an economic cost to our local businesses,” Evers said.

The governor this week ordered that bars, gyms and shopping malls close during the coronavirus outbreak. Evers ordered restaurants across the state to close their dining rooms. They can still serve food, but only through drive-through windows or as carry-out orders.

“The loan assistance from SBA [Small Business Association] will help alleviate some of the financial burden and stress on our small businesses during this public health crisis," Evers said.

Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, took to Twitter on Wednesday to say businesses in his community are feeling the impact of the orders to close.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to local businesses. Every dollar means a lot right now," Hintz tweeted. He then provided a link to local businesses in Oshkosh that could use some customers.

The governor's office says it has surveyed businesses across the state to see just how bad the coronavirus is hurting their bottom line.

But the federal loan assistance is not the only help that Wisconsin's small businesses could see.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) on Wednesday announced a $5 million program to provide grants to affected small businesses across the state.

“This is a program targeted at some of the ‘smallest of the small’ businesses that are vital to their communities," WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said in a statement. "Many of these businesses, especially retailers, restaurants and small service providers, typically operate on the narrowest of margins. Many don’t have the cash reserves needed to survive a substantial loss of revenue, which can happen with a prolonged emergency.

The grants would be no more than $20,000 and go to businesses that have no more than 20 employees. Hughes says the money can be used to cover expenses from rent to paychecks.

WEDC says 23 local banks and financial institutions across the state will handle the loans. Businesses will need to apply to the institutions, not the state.

Hughes says the $5 million program is likely just the first round of help that businesses in the state can expect from the WEDC.

"WEDC is working to develop additional programming to help get resources out to the communities and increase eligibility for participation," Hughes added. "We will be looking for additional solutions in the coming days as we learn more in this evolving situation.”


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