Investments aim to stabilize Wisconsin businesses
More than $100 million has been announced, in investments aimed at providing additional economic stabilization for small businesses and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new infusion of funds includes an additional $50 million for We’re All In Grants, an economic development grant program launched by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) this summer.
More than 26,000 businesses received We’re all In Grants statewide, but many continue to face economic challenges from the pandemic.
“Small businesses, including the tourism and lodging industries, are the backbone of our Wisconsin communities,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “Our communities are in desperate need of additional federal support, but we can’t wait a moment longer to do what we can here in Wisconsin.”
The announcement also provides further investments in economic stabilization programs, to support the lodging and tourism industry, live music and performance venues, cultural non-profits and privately owned movie theaters. These efforts are funded through the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), and will help Wisconsin’s small businesses and venues that serve as cultural catalysts, in communities across the state.
The new investments include over $50 million of $5,000 We’re All In Grants to more than 10,000 Wisconsin small businesses. The first phase of the program invested more than $65 million in grants for more than 26,000 businesses statewide.
This round of We’re All In Grants will prioritize businesses most impacted by the pandemic, including restaurants and taverns, hair and nail salons, and barber shops, and other services. It will be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, in partnership with WEDC.
“Wisconsin’s small businesses have demonstrated unbelievable creativity and ingenuity in adapting to the pandemic,” said WEDC secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. “However, many of them are already stretched to the limit and are concerned about just surviving for the next few months.”
Next, there will be $20 million for the Wisconsin lodging industry. In 2019, visitors to the state spent $3.7 billion on lodging, but recent reports indicate that up to two-thirds of all Wisconsin hotels, face closure within the next 12 months, without additional support.
This investment will provide the lodging industry emergency resources to navigate a reduction in travel and cover the cost of implementing additional public health best practices, as the pandemic continues.
There will also be $15 million for live music and performance venues throughout Wisconsin. Music venues, which often serve as community gathering places and cultural hubs, were among the first small businesses to close and may be among the last to fully re-open.
Many owners have been vocal in expressing the need for federal assistance to further supplement the state investments already made. This investment will help these venues that are shuttered and hopefully encourage a nationwide plan to save businesses over the long term.
In addition, $10 million will be directed to support privately owned movie theaters. Wisconsin movie theaters have not been spared the financial strain felt by movie theater companies nationally, as content has been limited and activity limited across the state.
There will also be $10 million in additional support for non-profit cultural venues, as well as $4 million in additional investments for destination marketing organizations and tourism drivers.