Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Puts $10.5 Million in Small Business, Employment

Funding comes from county's CARES Act allocation.

By - Sep 18th, 2020 06:16 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County rolled out two programs Thursday designed to provide relief to struggling small businesses and unemployed workers.

The county is putting more than $10 million of federal CARES Act funding into two programs.

In a statement, County Executive David Crowley noted that additional federal aid, which he and many state and local leaders have called for, has stalled out in partisan “gridlock.”

The first program is called the Small Business Initiative Grant Program. The county is using $7 million to provide grants to businesses faced with “immediate financial emergencies,” Crowley said at a COVID-19 briefing Thursday. Grants between $7,500 and $20,000 will be awarded.

Priority will be given to businesses that have a letter of support from the Ethnic and Diverse Business Coalition (EDBC). The EDBC is an organization comprised of a number of diverse chambers of commerce and other business organizations. Crowley said the coalition supports “entrepreneurs of color, Women and LGBT and veteran-owned businesses and other enterprises in historically underserved places, who did not have access or don’t have access to flexible and affordable capital.”

Ossie Kendrix, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, a coalition member, was quoted in a press release from the county executive’s office saying “I am happy to see that Milwaukee County is looking out for area businesses and prioritizing the recovery of Black-owned businesses as our community continues to navigate the pandemic, its aftermath, and the economic ruin its causes so many business owners and their families.”

In March, EDBC launched a grant program called the COVID-19 Small Business Impact Grant that allowed small businesses that were part of a member organization to apply for grants of up to $500.

The county also announced it would provide $3.5 million to a program called the Community Resources Navigator Program.

This program is run by WRTP/BIG STEP and Employ Milwaukee. It’s a two-prong program that gets people back to work and increases access to community resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first thing the program aims to do is provide a job to individuals that are currently unemployed. The second thing it does is train them to go into the community and help fight COVID-19.

People that are part of the program are hired and trained to go to community organizations, churches, shelters and public health facilities and distribute public health resources and information, food, clothing. They may be trained to help with contact tracing or to provide information on how to connect with mental health resources.

These jobs last anywhere from three to six months, and pay as much as $17 per hour. The grant from the county increases the number of placements the program can do and will add as many as 300 new additional employment opportunities to county residents, according to the county executive’s office.

The county received $62 million from the federal government and $15 million from the state’s allocation. The biggest single allocation has gone towards housing.

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