Last night, the personnel and finance committee of the Dane County Board approved a motion to give over ten million dollars of the county’s federal COVID-19 relief money to help small businesses.
The motion will now go to the Dane County Board of Supervisors for approval this Thursday
The program will be rolled out by Dane Buy Local, a non-profit that supports local businesses. The organization has been working with the county to provide grants and relief funds to area businesses.
The grant program has gone through several rounds of funding increases as demand for financial support has grown. When the program launched on April 1st, the county board approved $250,000 for financial aid grants.
Within a week, approximately 800 businesses had applied for grants. In response, the county board increased funding for the program to $800,000.
Patrick Miles is a supervisor on the Dane County Board, representing McFarland and its surroundings. He’s the chair of their Personnel and Finance Committee, and says that the initial funding came from a rotating loan program established by the federal government.
“So that’s a very small revolving loan fund program we have going to help small businesses or start-ups. Some of that is targeted towards rural businesses and so forth. It’s a very small program, but we did have some funds in there that we drew from initially,” he says.
After the federal loan program was discontinued, Dane County was allowed to use the funding for community and economic development, says Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. The excess funding means that the county didn’t have to pull financial resources from other services to support the grant program.
Despite not having approval from the Dane County Board of Supervisors, Executive Parisi issued a press release yesterday formally announcing the new program. He says securing approval from the County Board won’t be a problem.
“We anticipate it’ll pass the county board Thursday night. We’ve been working in partnership with the county board and county board leadership to be sure we’re all on the same page,” he says. “We all want the same thing; we want to get funds to the folks who need them the most in our community. We’ve worked together up front, because our goal is to get these funds out the door as quickly as possible because people need them desperately.”
According to Colin Murray, Executive Director of Dane Buy Local, Madison’s small business grant program is one of the largest in the nation.
“I was just on a conference call about two hours ago with similar business organizations around the country. We by far exceed any other city, county or state program that’s out there for a grant program in the country,” he says.
Currently, Dane Buy Local has 3500 grant applications to process for the program. So far, Murray says they’ve approved grants for about 300 Dane County businesses.
“There is a committee that I’ve formed, I’m not on the committee, but I formed a committee of leaders here in the Madison area who are going through the applications. At this point I have about 3500 applications that they’re going through and reviewing to make sure that they qualify. The average grant recipient is getting about $4500 in each of the grants,” he says.
The financial aid comes as the city and county have amended their annual budgets to account for the cost of the pandemic., Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in an interview with Glamour Magazine this week that the city’s budget is, “a complete and total mess. We’re going to have a really, really tough time pulling out of this.”
(Photo c/o Dane Buy Local)