City of Milwaukee to provide grants to help small businesses restart

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Last updated on May 18th, 2020 at 01:20 pm

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Friday that the city is creating a grant program for small businesses to help them re-open and recover following mandated social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coroanvirus.

“(The) program that we are working on right now…will allow us to help restart businesses here in the city of Milwaukee as we emerge from the restrictions that have been placed upon us,” Barrett said.

The state Supreme Court this week struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order, which was established in late March and after an extension in April was set to expire on May 26. Following the court ruling, Barrett said the city’s own stay at home order remains in effect, Barrett said this week. No end date has been set for that order.

The city did loosen restrictions this week, allowing hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, day spas, electrolysis providers, waxing salons, eyebrow-care establishments, tattoo parlors, body art establishments and tanning facilities to open. Retail establishments, including indoor shopping malls, may open, as well.

On Friday, Barrett said the city wants to help small businesses reopen after restrictions are lifted and recover from the effects of COVID-19 and the impact of social distancing measures taken to fight it.

The city will provide grants to businesses in the city of Milwaukee with 20 or fewer employees and less than $2 million in annual revenue, Barrett said. The funds can be used by businesses to cover expenses related to dealing with COVID-19, such as buying personal protection equipment for employees or for modifications such as installing flexiglass barriers between employees and customers and setting up new electronic or online payment systems.

“Our priority is to help small businesses get back on their feet,” Barrett said.

The size of the grants has yet to be determined, but could be up to $15,000, he said. The size of the grants will depend in part on how many businesses apply for the funds. To fund the program, the city is planning to use up to $20 million of the approximately $103 million it has received from the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, Barrett said.

Details on how to apply for the grants will be announced later, Barrett said. The city plans to establish a set period for interested businesses to apply and wants to avoid the first-come first-served rush for dollars that occurred for the federal Payment Protection Program (PPP), which ran out of funds and left some businesses empty-handed in its initial round.

“We want to avoid the rush to the bank,” Barrett said.

The city hopes to provide the funds to businesses by early July if not earlier, Barrett said.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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