Kenosha mayor seeking federal and state assistance for businesses damaged by violent protests

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Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian is seeking both federal and state assistance for businesses damaged and destroyed during violent protests in Kenosha over the past week, he said in a press conference on Thursday.

Dozens of businesses were either burned, looted or damaged since protests broke out over the officer involved shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday. Some news reports indicated that as many as 30 businesses were damaged across the city.

Kenosha’s Uptown Business District appears to have sustained the most damage throughout the city with some businesses reporting more than $100,000 in losses.

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“I have asked the governor for support financially for the businesses and we are in conversation with that and we’re going to make the same request of the federal government,” Anataramian said at the press conference.

Local nonprofit organizations and community members willing to lend a hand have spent the past several days cleaning up the city streets, including Downtown Kenosha, Inc., an economic development and downtown revitalization nonprofit organization.

Kenosha Downtown Inc. executive director Alexandria Binanti said cleanup efforts have extended into today. The organization has plans to facilitate grant programs to help businesses rebuild using funds they have raised, Binanti said.

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“We’re still working on our immediate needs and fundraising for recovery relief, but there’s never going to be enough money here so we’re constantly fundraising,” Binanti said.

Kenosha Downtown Inc. historically provided facade improvement grants for businesses across the city. However, the organization pivoted its funding model to support the needs of all small businesses in the community at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Binanti said.

So far, Kenosha Downtown Inc.’s recovery fund has raised $39,000, but Binanti says the community will need more funds to rebuild, adding that she met with Governor Tony Evers privately yesterday to discuss how Kenosha can receive additional financial support.

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“We’re going to look at that model again for both Downtown and Uptown we’re going to have committees that score impact and needs and have those grants available for glass repair, construction services or inventory loss,” Binanti said. “It all kind of depends on what those needs are.”

With the community still in the process of organizing its recovery efforts,  Binanti said she is not sure when these grants will be disbursed. However, the organization, in addition to its own grants, would like to facilitate any recovery programming if the city receives funds, Binanti said.

Although Monday and Tuesday’s protests brought violent unrest, the last couple of days have been “beautiful displays of unity,” Binanti said. The nonprofit organization was able to board up most of the city’s business yesterday and is now waiting on approval from the fire department to expand their efforts further into the Uptown Business District.

“Now moving forward, some of our creative nonprofits have rallied artists and we are completely transforming our downtown into mural projects, messages of love and commitment to being better in the future,” Binanti said.

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