At 5 p.m. yesterday, all restaurants and bars in Wisconsin closed per a mandate from Governor Tony Evers.
In order to offset the economic losses of that order, Governor Evers announced that the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) would work with Wisconsin Emergency Management and the U.S. Small Business Administration to “unlock federal relief funds” for businesses in the state.
Those grants aren’t yet available, but Ruth Rohlich, a business development specialist with the City of Madison, says there is one thing small business owners can do immediately: get a crowdsourced loan through Kiva.
“Kiva is an online lending platform for small businesses [and] the City of Madison works in partnership with them right now. Kiva provides zero percent interest, no-fee loans, and they have expanded their eligibility during this time,” Rohlich says. “They can do loans up to $15,000, the application is very simple, and they also are offering a six-month grace period at this time for repayment. So, I would really encourage businesses to consider that.”
Rohlich also says that although restaurants are closed, Madison residents can support these businesses by purchasing a gift card, and ordering takeout or delivery — as long as they leave a bigger tip than usual.
“Just continuing to look for virtual options with the businesses that you frequent and enjoy is a great way for customers to support businesses they love, and also for those businesses to remain somewhat open and functioning during these times,” Rohlich adds.
Earlier today, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation announced it was creating a program to provide $5 million in grants to targeted businesses throughout the state.
That program will provide grants of up to $20,000 to businesses with no more than 20 employees to cover rent and to meet payroll expenses, including paid leave, and will primarily go to retailers, restaurants and small service providers.
Still, hundreds of workers are being laid off or furloughed due to decreased business.
Tyler Tichenor, a communications specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, says the first step to getting unemployment insurance is to visit dwd.wisconsin.gov and clicking on the “Unemployment Insurance” tab.
There, you will file an initial claim that will collect some background information about the amount of wages you earn and your previous employers.
If your employer has closed due to COVID-19, Tichenor encourages you to apply.
“We’re encouraging all individuals who have lost work to no fault of their own to file a claim for unemployment insurance. The only way to know if you’re eligible is to file that initial claim and have an unemployment claims specialist evaluate it,” Tichenor says.
During a press conference yesterday, Governor Evers announced he would be issuing an Emergency Order today, and that Wisconsin needs to provide unemployment insurance quickly.
“To help our workers, we are asking the State Legislature to immediately take up legislation to repeal Wisconsin’s one-week waiting period for unemployment compensation insurance. It’s incredibly important that the much-needed unemployment insurance funds make it to affected workers quickly,” Evers said.
That order, issued today, waives the requirement that those seeking insurance conduct at least four weekly work search actions during the COVID-19 emergency.
The order also ensures that claimants who are otherwise eligible but out of work due to COVID-19 are considered available for work and therefore eligible for benefits.