Legislature Should ‘Step Up’ Barnes Says
Take action to protect our health, end patchwork of pandemic rules, Lieutenant Governor urges.
While Governor Tony Evers, 68, has used his folksy charm to plead with Wisconsin residents to stay home and to describe the discord between his administration and the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, 33, has a different tact.
In an interview with Urban Milwaukee, Barnes framed the negotiations as something Millenials and Generation Z can relate to. “We got ghosted by the Legislature,” he said. The term typically refers to when an individual just disappears in the middle of a romantic relationship or digital conversation.
“We need legislators to step up and respond to this crisis,” said the Lieutenant Governor, himself a former lawmaker.
“The way they discuss it, they decide to separate people’s health from the economy,” he said. “One of the points I always make is reopening doesn’t equal recovery automatically.”
Barnes said patchwork regulations aren’t serving anyone effectively. “Even in Milwaukee County we have different regulations between the City of Milwaukee and the 18 surrounding communities,” he said. “We know how easy it is to go between municipalities.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has left the executive branch with little power to act. “There is very little that they want us to be able to do,” said Barnes.
Is there any solution? “I’m not confident that the leaders in the majority party of the Legislature are going to do anything to protect people’s health and safety,” he said.
Small Business Support
The Lieutenant Governor is hopeful that newly announced state grant programs will provide businesses the relief they need, even as many remain shuttered or operating with minimal operations. “I am excited that we can provide some relief to small businesses in our state,” said Barnes of a $75 million small business grant program and a $2 million grant program for small businesses owned by minorities.
He said a lot of small businesses had trouble accessing the federal Paycheck Protection Program because they couldn’t react fast enough. “A lot of people were left with so many questions about rent, mortgages, payroll, even adapting to changing circumstances,” said Barnes. “We want to be in a position to help support them.”
The $75 million state program would provide grants of up to $2,500 each to businesses with 20 or fewer employees. More information will be available about the program in early June said Evers in announcing it yesterday.
Applications are already being accepted for a small business program for minority-owned businesses with five or fewer employees.
Barnes, an African American, said the $2 million grant program is essential from an equity standpoint. “We want to ensure that the people that are always left behind in these situations don’t continue to be left behind,” he said. The application window for that program is open through May 24th.
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