Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

400 Businesses Will Split $4 Million For COVID-19 Readiness

City grant program only allocates 20 percent of expected budget. Designed to retool businesses to adapt to COVID-19 dangers.

By - Jul 16th, 2020 02:21 pm
Johanna's Cakes and Desserts Cafe. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Johanna’s Cakes and Desserts Cafe. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee’s Restart grant program, intended to provide businesses with up to $15,000 grants to implement COVID-19 safety improvements, will award more than 400 businesses approximately $4 million in total.

“I want our local businesses to have a fighting chance to get back to profitability as we adapt to new public health requirements and  expectations,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a statement announcing the awards.

To qualify for the program businesses needed to have 20 or fewer employees and less than $2 million in annual gross revenue.

Approximately 40 percent of the applicants identified themselves as minority-owned. More than 40 percent of the applicants said the business was owned by a woman.

The Department of City Development is partnering with the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation to distribute the grants.

Restart grant award winner maps. Image from the City of Milwaukee.

Restart grant award winner maps. Image from the City of Milwaukee.

The city provided a map of the winning businesses, but not a list of names. A press release teases some of them including “a peddle tavern” and a “cheese head manufacturer.” The only firms of such kind in the city are the Milwaukee Pedal Tavern and Foamation, both located in Walker’s Point.

Barrett was scheduled to be joined in a virtual press conference by Johanna Ortiz, owner and operator of Johanna’s Cakes & Desserts Cafe. Barrett previously joined Ortiz at her grand opening ceremony on October 14th.

The city had originally budgeted to spend up to $20 million of its more than $100 million federal CARES Act allocation to support the program.

The program was announced on May 15th.

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

Martinez said the funding could go towards new electronic payment systems and personal protective equipment.

Funding was not allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead after all applications were collected.

Awardees can be found in each of the 15 aldermanic districts, but are clustered in the city’s densest neighborhoods, Downtown, the Historic Third Ward, Walker’s Point, the Lower East Side and Riverwest.

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