Graham Kilmer

City Will Issue Higher COVID-19 Fines

New maximum fine for businesses disobeying a health order is $5,000 per violation.

By - Dec 1st, 2020 05:23 pm
In November, Casablanca was cited for violating the city's health order. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

In November, Casablanca was cited for violating the city’s health order. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Increases in fines for businesses violating the City of Milwaukee’s COVID-19 health order will go into effect very soon.

Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday during a media briefing that he was going to sign an ordinance passed by the Common Council raising the maximum penalties for violations.

Under the current law, businesses can be fined $500 for violating mask requirements, social distancing or capacity limits. Under the new law, businesses can be fined as much as $5,000 for a single violation. Barrett noted that often when inspectors go into a business there are multiple offenses.

The ordinance, sponsored by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, raises the level of penalty so that violating the city’s health order will cost businesses a minimum $500 per fine. Barrett said his office is working with the Milwaukee Health Department and the Office of the City Attorney to determine “gradations” for the fine.

Claire Evers, deputy health commissioner, said the new level would allow the health department to issue citations that could total $20,000.

For weeks, Barrett has said the city was hearing that some businesses have built COVID-19 fines into their operating expenses as a cost of doing business. He was adamant that these new fines are intended to deter that.

“It’s not our goal to fine businesses,” Barrett said. “It’s our goal to make sure everyone in Milwaukee is following public health orders.”

The city has been stressing the importance of the public health measures found in their orders for the entirety of the pandemic. “People should know by now,” Barrett said.

As Urban Milwaukee has reported, in late October the city announced it was moving away from issuing warning letters and would begin fining businesses. At the time, it had issued 62 warning letter to local businesses for violating the health order. Since then, at least three business have been fined by the city for violating orders.

Dimitrijevic, who sponsored the new ordinance, said the other option, instead of raising fines, would be a ban on all indoor activity.

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