Local businesses are still hurting, and many are just beginning to return to normal.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is offering a total of $3 million in new loans to businesses damaged during protests and riots in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Gov. Tony Evers’ office announced Wednesday.
The no-interest loans will add to the $1 million the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. previously dedicated to damaged local businesses, bringing the total available pool to $4 million. Businesses will be eligible for up to $50,000, according to Evers’ office.
“We know Kenoshans are working to reconstruct and repair in the wake of devastation, and we want to do everything we can to support the Kenosha Comeback,” Evers said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand the resilience of this community, and we are going to do everything we can to be there as they work to rebuild and move forward together.”
Damage in Kenosha is estimated at $50 million following more than a week of unrest that led to dozens of local businesses being damaged, with some burning down entirely in the predominantly Black Uptown neighborhood.
Businesses will be able to apply for the loans through the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. The loans are being given as part of WEDC’s Disaster Relief Microloan program. The loans can be used for several different purposes such as cleanup and restoration, repairs, and operating expenses.
“After visiting Kenosha, it was clear to us that additional steps are needed to help the community recover,” said Missy Hughes, CEO of the WEDC, in a statement. “WEDC is committed to making sure that businesses and communities in every part of this state have the resources they need to grow and thrive. We will continue to leverage our resources and partnerships in our efforts to assure economic well-being for all the citizens of Kenosha and Wisconsin.”
Kenosha businesses are only just beginning to return to some semblance of normal, according to Alexandria Binanti, executive director of business group Downtown Kenosha Inc. Many storefronts are still boarded up and many business owners are caught up in insurance claims.
“We’re in need of more, but we’ll take what we can get for now, I guess,” Binanti said in reference to the WEDC loans.
Just shy of 100 businesses were damaged in the unrest, Binanti said. Some survived with minor damage like broken windows while others, like Rode’s Camera Shop and the Danish Brotherhood Lodge were total losses.
Following his visit to Kenosha earlier this month, President Donald Trump said over $40 million in federal funding was on the way to help rebuild. However, Evers and Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the money cannot be used to help with unrest-related damage because the funding was already on the way from the federal coronavirus relief bill.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by Downtown Kenosha Inc. has a goal to raise $250,000 to help damaged businesses, but donations have slowed and the campaign is currently sitting at just under $119,000. Downtown Kenosha Inc. will also launch a grant program “in the next few weeks,” Binanti said.
With many businesses already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and now experiencing a drop in customers due to the unrest, Binanti said the best thing people can do to help is patronize local shops and restaurants.
“We’re safe now, and there’s so many businesses that are open that need that support of purchasing power,” Binanti said.