State Launches Programs To Aid Business
Loan and grant programs intended to provide bridge for businesses hurt by pandemic.
Governor Tony Evers and other state officials joined Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President and CEO Kurt Bauer on a one-hour online briefing for more then 2,000 state business leaders Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s the strength of our communities that’s frankly going to bring us together,” said Evers in opening his remarks.
While continuing to push for social distancing whenever possible, he said two programs were in the works to help businesses and their workers.
One would grant access to a $50 billion Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program announced by President Donald Trump last week. The program would grant long-term, low-interest loans to businesses experiencing losses.
Unlocking the funds from the SBA required Evers to issue a request for aid. “That has now happened and we expect, within the next 48 hours or so, that the SBA will have resources available for businesses to apply for.”
“The loans are typically for $2 million or less. They’re often long term, even 30-year terms, with low interest,” said Hughes.
But she said patience would be needed. “We expect the SBA to be inundated with applications.” Borrowers will be able to apply online.
A smaller, state program is also being launched. “WEDC has announced today the creation of what we’re calling SB20/20,” said Hughes.
The $5 million program would provide grants of up $20,000 to businesses with no more than 20 employees. Administered by the 23 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in the state, the grants would cover expenses including rent, payroll and paid leave for a period of up to two months.
A press release said using the CDFIs was strategic because they have existing relationships with businesses and could get the funding out quicker. CDFIs operating in Milwaukee include the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation and Forward Community Investments.
“These grants will be available to the smallest and most vulnerable businesses,” said Hughes. “We’re going to help small businesses bridge between now and when they might be able to access federal loans.”
Other programs remain under consideration and the federal government is expected to pass relief legislation in the coming weeks.
“We’re continuing to look at other opportunities to work with the community banks and credit unions across the state,” said Hughes.
Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of the Department of Health Services, provided guidance on responding to the virus. “If one person on the factory floor tests positive for this disease, it doesn’t mean you need to shut down the whole operation,” she noted, but said anyone who had direct contact with the individual should be isolated. As of Wednesday at 2 p.m. only 14 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had individuals with positive tests.
WMC members were also able to ask questions.
Will there be a shelter in place order? “I don’t believe we’re going to get to that point,” said Evers. “It would be my goal as governor to make sure everyone knows that economic activity is part of the solution to the issue.”
But delaying tax filing could happen. “Secretary [Peter] Barca is absolutely looking at all of these issues and time is of the essence,” said Evers. “We will be making an announcement on that soon.” The governor said his cabinet is meeting daily.
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