Jeramey Jannene

City Launches Business Restart Grants

Businesses with $2 million or less in revenue can apply for $20 million grant program.

By - May 15th, 2020 03:43 pm
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Mayor Tom Barrett announcing the Milwaukee Business Restart Program. Screenshot from Zoom.

Mayor Tom Barrett announcing the Milwaukee Business Restart Program. Screenshot from Zoom.

Mayor Tom Barrett announced the initial framework for the Milwaukee Business Restart Program Friday afternoon.

The grant program, for businesses with no more than 20 employees and up to $2 million in annual revenue, is intended to pay for costs associated with retooling businesses to best practices for health and safety.

“It’s going to really prepare businesses to get going,” said Natanael Martinez of the Department of City Development‘s Commercial Corridor Team. “Some examples we have already seen is a lot of grocery stores have been using plexiglass.”

Martinez said businesses could also use the funding for other improvements, including outfitting new electronic payment systems to avoid taking cash. “It’s really taking an innovative approach to see how businesses can retool,” he said.

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

The city will not take applications on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead will offer an application window for businesses to apply. “We don’t think that first-come, first-served is necessarily fair,” said Barrett. “One of the things we want to avoid is the rush to the bank.”

He said the city would wait for all of the applications to come in before deciding how much funding to allocate to the program, but it could eventually allocate $20 million of the over $100 million in federal CARES Act funding it received. Businesses could receive upwards of $15,000.

“A lot of that is going to be dependent on how many businesses and how many individuals apply,” he said. The Mayor said the city considered using Community Development Block Grant money for the program, but thought the CARES Act funds would be more flexible. The funds received via the CARES ACT can not be used by the city to replace lost revenue and must be spent on the pandemic response.

Barrett said more information, including an application window and process, would be announced in the coming days.

The city issued a new health order Thursday evening that allows salons, spas, tattoo parlors and barbershops to reopen. Retail stores were allowed to reopen earlier this week under a state order.

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