Gov. Tony Evers plans to hand out $75 million to small businesses that have lost money because they were shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, he announced Monday.
Businesses are eligible to receive grants of $2,500 each to help cover costs such as insurance and wages.
The grants will be available to businesses with 20 or fewer employees that were affected by the pandemic and have not already received assistance from the state economic development corporation. As many as 30,000 businesses could receive grants
To fund the effort, Evers is relying on some of the nearly $2 billion in federal coronavirus aid he controls.
“Wisconsinites have done an incredible job of banding together throughout this crisis and it’s more important than ever for us to continue respecting each other, supporting each other, holding each other accountable and protecting those who are vulnerable,” Evers said in a statement.
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Evers, a Democrat, has broad leeway on how to spend the federal money and does not need approval from the Republicans who control the Legislature implement his idea.
His grant announcement came less than a week after Republican lawmakers prevailed in a lawsuit that allowed the state’s businesses to re-open before Evers’ stay-at-home order expired May 26.
As a result of the state Supreme Court’s decision in that lawsuit, Evers’ administration drafted new emergency rules to reinstate the stay-at-home safeguards. But state Sen. Steve Nass, the Whitewater Republican who chairs the committee that would be required to approve them, signaled Monday he wouldn’t do it.
Evers then withdrew the proposal, saying he wouldn’t make any more attempts to restrict movement in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to spend a lot of time doing something that we know isn’t going to be successful,” he said Monday.
Testing numbers encouraging but not definitive
Monday’s COVID-19 testing numbers were encouraging, with officials announcing 144 new cases, roughly 2.9% of the total tests run since Sunday. That’s the lowest positive percentage the state has recorded since early May, and it has fallen for the second straight day, down from 8.3% Friday.
But people shouldn’t be too quick to assume transmission is slowing down, said Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer at the state Department of Health Services.
That’s because different parts of the state have set different standards for who is being tested for the virus, with some areas testing more asymptomatic people than others.
“We’re continuing to sample a pretty small fraction,” Westergaard said.
To date, more than 157,000 Wisconsinites have been tested. Monday’s new cases brought the state’s total positives to 12,687. Just over half those people have recovered, state officials said.
Six new deaths were reported in Wisconsin between Sunday and Monday afternoon, for a total of 459.
Nationwide, more than 1.5 million people have tested positive and more than 90,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Public health experts around the nation fear a second wave of the virus will hit later this year and the U.S. will be unprepared.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said that if a “big peak” of coronavirus floods hospitals this winter, “we have the potential here to go through days we have not seen since World War II. … As a nation, we will not be ready.”
Responses to re-opening have varied
Some Wisconsinites rushed to bars within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision that allowed them to reopen. Others stayed home. Some businesses quickly re-opened. Others stayed closed.
Twice in recent days, Milwaukee police have issued quarantine orders for people who tested positive for COVID-19 but refused to stay home, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Monday.
In one of the cases, the city Health Department learned from a family member concerned that the person who tested positive was going back to work, Barrett said. The Health Department then referred the case to police.
Also Monday, Brookfield Square reopened, with eight retail stores and eight restaurants listed as being open for curbside pickup, according to the mall’s website.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Jackson, CEO and artistic director of Milwaukee Film, announced that the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival is unlikely to be a 15-day, in-person event as a result of the pandemic.
And a third Summerfest headliner, Chris Stapleton, joined Halsey and Dave Matthews Band in postponing their shows until next year’s fest.
A big question mark remains for the Democratic National Convention, set to take place in August in Milwaukee.
Many of the delegates set to nominate former Vice President Joe Biden don’t want to attend a full-scale convention due to the health risks, the New York Times reported Monday.
“Delegates said they are worried about riding public transportation to the convention site and requiring thousands of hotel and arena employees in Milwaukee to work on their behalf in potentially unsafe conditions,” the article read. “They are also concerned about the possibility that people who come from coronavirus hot spots will spread the virus in Wisconsin.”
The outbreak has forced organizers to move the convention from mid-July to the week of Aug. 17. They have not yet determined how the convention will look: events could proceed full-scale, in person but scaled down, or entirely virtually.
Sophie Carson, Alison Dirr, Chris Foran, Piet Levy, and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel staff, Evan Casey and Madeline Heim of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin; and USA Today contributed to this story.
Contact Gina Barton at (414) 224-2125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @writerbarton.
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