Becky Cooper in Bounce Milwaukee
Becky Cooper, co-owner of Bounce Milwaukee, is seen at the amusement center and restaurant in March 2021. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Democrats hammer Sen. Johnson for consistent opposition to pandemic relief for Wisconsin small businesses and families.

The middle of March marks the two-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic bringing waves of illnesses and deaths in Wisconsin, along with a near-collapse of the economy. The same period is also the one-year anniversary of Congress passing a comprehensive economic relief package that brought aid to families and businesses.

Last Friday, legislators and a small business owner in Milwaukee held an event to note how the American Rescue Plan and other initiatives helped businesses reopen and put employees back to work.

Becky Cooper, the owner of Bounce Milwaukee—a family restaurant and amusement center, has not been shy in the past about calling out Wisconsin’s Republican legislators for taking  a nine-month paid break from legislating in 2020, instead of helping small business owners.

“We’re only able to stand here today because of the American Rescue Plan,” Cooper said. “I can say with 100 percent certainty that if we had not gotten this relief, we would have closed our doors and laid off all of our employees. As you can see, that did not happen. We are open, we are back in business, we have increased wages and we’re unionizing, and we’re coming up on our busiest weekend since 2020.”

The American Rescue Plan’s numerous forms of relief included approximately $7 billion in direct economic relief payments to nearly 3 million Wisconsinites; and the guardians of more than 1 million children got a temporary increase in the child tax credit. Nearly $4 billion in relief went to small businesses in the state through the Paycheck Protection Program. Another $1.6 billion in relief was allocated to K-12 school districts. Health insurance was made available to 212,209 people in the state through expanded access to the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The package also delivered $2.7 billion in state government aid and $2.1 billion for Wisconsin municipalities that have used the aid for everything from backfilling strained budgets for local services and repairing water and sewer infrastructure to expanded broadband access and reducing housing evictions. 

“This wasn’t a policy that was pushed because of any political reasons,” said Rep. Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee) at the Bounce event. “It was simply because Democrats understand what Americans went through over the last two years. We are enacting policy and that is about solving issues.”

“The American Rescue Plan saved thousands of jobs in this state, it allowed our schools to reopen safely by providing things as simple as air purification systems for some of our oldest schools and masks for our children,” said state Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee). “It provided additional dollars for our businesses so they wouldn’t have to close and it allowed those who are on the frontlines to have the PPE gear that they needed to safely return to work and to protect themselves and their families.”

Cooper has previously called on Congress to pass the follow-up package to the American Rescue Plan, but President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal has been held up by every Republican member of Congress and two Democrats. She, Johnson, and Haywood criticized US Sen. Ron Johnson for being a leading voice in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation opposing pandemic aid.

“Republicans have shown us over and over again who they really are, what they care about, and who they serve,” said Johnson. “They have lost sight of Wisconsinites – their concerns, their issues, what affects them most in their daily lives. They have lost concern for you.”

“While the American Rescue Plan kept our cities’ businesses and families going, every Republican, led by Ron Johnson, opposed the legislation, for reasons that I cannot understand,” said Cooper. “It seems Ron Johnson has been focused on his self-serving agenda: Rip health care away from Wisconsinites and raise costs for everyone else—and [telling] small businesses in their darkest hours that they’re on their own.”