Evers Plans $2.5 Billion In Business Aid
Governor vetoes bill giving Legislator say over how federal pandemic aid, saying it will cause delay.
Governor Tony Evers vetoed a bill Monday that would have given the Republican-controlled Legislature authority over the distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds.
The state recently received $3.2 billion in federal funding from the recent stimulus legislation called the American Rescue Plan.
Under state law, the governor has the authority to direct the expenditure of federal funds received by the state. The bill he vetoed Monday would have required that any federal COVID-19 related funding had to pass through the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
Evers said the success in distributing previous federal pandemic funding was in part due to not having to work with the Legislature. “We were able to work fast,” he said, “and without political huffing and puffing.”
He took a jab at the Legislature for adjourning in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and not returning to work on COVID-19 related legislation for nearly ten months. By contrast, he noted, when the state received federal pandemic funding “it didn’t take us more than 292 days to get help to the folks that needed it.”
The state is still waiting on guidance from the federal government detailing how it can spend the new funds. But Evers outlined the state’s general plan, thus far, for the expense of some of the funds.
The governor has committed to using $2.5 billion to provide economic relief to business. That includes $600 million for its small business grant program, called the “We’re All In” grants. Another $50 million will be spent on the state’s tourism industry. $200 million will be directed to infrastructure projects and the expansion of broadband internet.
The state also plans to use $500 million to fund its ongoing COVID-19 response.
Evers made this announcement inside of Miss Molly’s Cafe & Pastry Shop, at 9201 W. Center St. The business, owned by Molly Sullivan, was a recipient of two rounds of small business grants from the state. The grants, she said, “were hugely vital to my business.”
In the early days of the pandemic businesses had to adapt to shutdowns and reduced capacities. Miss Molly’s used grant money to purchase a new point-of-sale system that allowed the business to pivot to take-out and curbside delivery, Sullivan said.
She is the owner and only employee of her business, so she thought she didn’t have a chance at securing a grant. But she did, and it “came just in time,” Ridley said. She used her grant to build online-courses. This move, she said, will also be beneficial in the long term even after she resumes in-person consulting.
The testimonies underscored Evers goal to dedicate a significant amount of the state’s federal relief funding to small businesses and economic recovery and his decision to veto the Republican-backed bill.
“This money belongs to them, the people of Wisconsin, not Republican legislators,” he said, explaining that he doesn’t want the money tied up in a “political fight in the Legislature.”
“I don’t care who gets the credit… I just want to get this done, get money in the pockets.”
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