In another step toward assisting small businesses that suffer losses related to the COVID-19 health emergency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is offering up to $20,000 in grants to targeted borrowers throughout the state, WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes announced Wednesday, March 18.
The WEDC Board of Directors on Tuesday approved $5 million in funding for the program, which will be known as Small Business 20/20 (SB20/20). SB20/20 will provide grants of up to $20,000 to targeted businesses with up to 20 workers to cover rent and to meet payroll expenses, including paid leave (including sick, family, and other leave related to COVID-19).
“This is an important first step by WEDC in helping the more than 92,000 small businesses in our state and their employees who are facing lost revenues, missed paychecks, and other uncertainty due to COVID-19,” Governor Tony Evers said. “As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt, we will be relying on WEDC to develop additional innovative programs to meet the needs of our state.”
“This is a program targeted at some of the ‘smallest of the small’ businesses that are vital to their communities—such as minority- and women-owned firms. Many of these businesses, especially retailers, restaurants, and small service providers, typically operate on the narrowest of margins,” Hughes said. “Many don’t have the cash reserves needed to survive a substantial loss of revenue, which can happen with a prolonged emergency. SB20/20 will help put cash in the pockets of these businesses and their employees when they need it most.”
The grants will target borrowers with loans from the state’s 23 community development financial institutions (CDFIs). In many cases, these borrowers have been unable to secure loans from conventional lenders. Preference will be given to service and retail businesses. The CDFIs will provide the grants directly to their clients.
CDFIs are specialized community-based financial institutions with a primary mission to promote economic development by providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low-income communities. CDFIs include community development banks, credit unions, and non-regulated institutions such as nonprofit loan funds or venture capital funds.
WEDC is encouraging CDFIs with a minimum organizational loan portfolio of at least $4 million to participate in SB20/20. In addition, smaller CDFIs are encouraged to work together and apply as part of a collaborative with a combined organizational loan portfolio of at least $4 million, designating one CDFI as the lead applicant/recipient of funds. CDFIs that do not meet the minimum portfolio size are also encouraged to collaborate with the larger CDFIs to serve their clients.
More information about the program is available at wedc.org/sb2020. Applications for business assistance must be processed through the CDFIs and not WEDC. WEDC plans to identify the participating CDFIs within the next two weeks.