Jeramey Jannene

Foundation Allocates $30 Million To Equitable COVID-19 Business Recovery

GMF advancing its impact investing model to much larger scale.

By - Aug 5th, 2020 03:25 pm
The Sherman Phoenix

The Sherman Phoenix

It’s likely that the shocks to the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to hit Milwaukee well into the future, but one of the city’s largest foundations is already thinking about recovery.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation announced an allocation of $30 million towards an equitable economic recovery spread over five years. The foundation is allocating $15 million of its existing resources and seeking to fundraise an additional $15 million.

“The COVID-19 outbreak coupled with large-scale civil demonstrations for racial justice have only heightened the need for greater action and investment in our local communities,” said Ellen Gilligan, GMF president and CEO in a statement. “Philanthropy, in partnership with community, must concentrate now on our long-term economic recovery – not just from the acute needs caused by the current crises but from the chronic disparities that have long kept Milwaukee from reaching its potential.”

The foundation has already provided $620,000 in support to small businesses struggling because of the pandemic.

The newly allocated funds will go through the firm’s impact investing pilot program, which created 85 jobs by backing 47 small businesses and attracted $4.9 million in additional investment, GMF reported.

The program focuses on three areas – affordable housing, early childhood education and equitable economic opportunities.

“Thoughtful projects that would bring excellent value to the community but are encountering barriers to traditional financing are often strong candidates for impact investing,” said Kathryn Dunn, GMF senior vice president of community impact. “We’ve shown how this instrument can cultivate entrepreneurship, particularly in communities of color, increase employment opportunities and support creation of vibrant, mixed-income communities. Such investment is needed now more than ever.”

The first $620,000 was allocated to the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin ($180,000), Latino Entrepreneurial Network ($150,000), King Drive Business Improvement District ($150,000), LISC Milwaukee ($100,000) and the Sherman Phoenix ($42,000).

The organizations are using the funds to support businesses in their networks that need support for rent, payroll or other emergency needs. It is estimated the funds will ultimately go to 200 businesses.

The impact investing model will be put to the test as the organization prepares to move to the former Schuster’s department store on N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The move, which will relocate all of the organization’s 55 employees from Schlitz Park, will see GMF partner with the Medical College of Wisconsin to revitalize the first floor of the building. Royal Capital Group will develop the building’s top floors into apartments.

GMF is also providing funding to the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund ($100,000) and grants to 140 licensed family and center-based early childhood care providers ($350,000).

The foundation reports an allocation of $8.4 million to coronavirus relief, with $1 million of that towards community development and employment & training programs.

The organization was the leading backer of a Black Lives Matter mural on the intersection of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and W. Locust St. that is scheduled to be repainted Wednesday.

To hear a discussion of how the organization first implemented its impact investing model in Sherman Park, listen to GMF’s appearance on the City Beat podcast in August 2019.

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Categories: Real Estate

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