Barrett reveals more details for Milwaukee’s small business restart grants

Milwaukee small businesses eligible for up to $15,000, application period opens May 28

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Last updated on May 22nd, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Starting May 28, Milwaukee small businesses can apply for up to $15,000 grants from the city to help resume operations.

Mayor Tom Barrett revealed additional details of the city’s business restart grant program on Wednesday. The program was initially announced last week. It aims to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdown orders by the city and state.

The two-week application period will begin on May 28 and end on June 12. Businesses can apply at

Qualified businesses are those established before the end of 2019, have an annual revenue of less than $2 million and employ 20 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees.

The grant money can be used for purchasing personal protective equipment of employees, restocking perishable inventory and making modifications to business spaces and operations that reduces the spread of disease. Barrett said businesses that have already made such expenses can be reimbursed through this grant program.

“Small businesses play a vital role in creating jobs, in driving our economy, and in maintaining the character of neighborhoods all across Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “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.”

The city could have up to $23 million to provide businesses. Barrett said $20 million will come from the CARES Act funding the city received from the federal government, and another $3 million could come from Community Development Block Grant funding. The CDBG portion would need Common Council approval, and would be only be used after the first $20 million is spent, Barrett said.

Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, with the cooperation of the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, plans to start distributing grants as soon as possible after June 12.

Barrett emphasized these grants will not be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. He said the city hopes to avoid issues seen with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program process.

“We felt at the federal level there were problems with the loan programs, where larger organizations were able to take advantage of that and in many cases scoop up large portions of those dollars,” he said.

All businesses in Milwaukee, including grant recipients, will be expected to follow directives from the Milwaukee Health Department to reduce exposure and transmission of COVID-19.

Barrett said the city is looking at other ways it will use the $103 million it received through the CARES Act. Large portions of that money will go toward the city health and fire departments, which have had “increased expenditures” in response to the outbreak, he said. Some of the money could also be used to help residents afford rent payments, he added.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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