On Tuesday, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced the city will invest $35,000 in both the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County.
Jessica Cavazos is the CEO of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. She says the pandemic has caused the organization to cancel fundraisers and lose income–making the funding commitment from the city, as well as funding from other donors, crucial. Usually the organization works to help entrepreneurs in the Latinx community and beyond establish or innovate their businesses. Now, Cavazos says the chamber has been working to gather resources from the city, county, and state.
“Our chamber right now is trying to provide essential services and resources to all members of the community who are trying to navigate these difficult times,” Cavazos says. “A lot of it has to do with just information.”
The Latino Chamber of Commerce has used Facebook to share information and resources. Cavazos estimates the chamber has received nearly 700 calls from community members since March.
“I take a lot of calls, but I give it to my staff, who are amazing. They are like champions. They’ve taken most of those calls,” Cavazos explains. “We’re helping everyone, no matter if you’re Latino or non Latino. We’re really here to serve the community and make sure the economy stays afloat, and that the recovery process is even better.”
The chamber is not requiring dues from members for the remainder of 2020.
Madison Black Chamber of Commerce President Camille Carter says that city funds will allow the chamber to expand their technical services.
“We are leveraging that toward the recovery phase,” Carter elaborates. “[We are] really wanting to help our businesses to ramp into either new, and refreshed, and refocused business plans. Some of them are starting new business completely considering maybe their old business model was not going to work in a post-COVID ecosystem.”
Carter says the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce has over 300 members and that only a small percent, like some restaurants, have been able to stay open. She says the chamber has been focused on connecting folks with the resources they need to stay afloat.
On a state level, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will be awarding grants of $2,000 apiece, specifically for businesses owned by ethnic minorities with five or less employees–including the owner. The business also must not have received funding as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.
CEO Missy Hughes says the funds are a result of shifting in WEDC’s budget.
“We’ve seen businesses from diverse communities really have a more difficult time accessing the federal funding,” Hughes says. “We are trying to, as much as we can, fill gaps we are seeing develop especially for these micro businesses.”
The Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant is separate from a 75 million dollar plan from Governor Tony Evers. That plan will award grants of 2,500 dollars and be available to any small business of 20 employees or less.
The application deadline for the WEDC grant has been extended through Tuesday, May 26th, 2020. The application can be found here.