Madison city officials announced plans to extend programs and funding opportunities for small businesses to boost the local economy in a press briefing Thursday.
According to officials, these measures are intended to help business owners purchase personal protective equipment and partially offset losses that occured as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Small Business Equity & Recovery Covid Grant (SBER), the newest of the city’s funding opportunities, will provide up to $10,000 to businesses owned by historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
“Many small businesses face the real prospect of permanently closing,” the City of Madison-Economic Development website reads. “We recognize the historic and current inequities in funding and support for small businesses owned by people of color.”
The initial application process for these grants, including SBER, was from November 2020 to February 2021 during which officials received upwards of 500 applications, many of which are still pending and under review.
“We are still in the process of reviewing those applications, but I am happy to say that we’ve issued already about $1.1 million worth of checks to Madison business owners through that effort,” said Mathew Mikolajewski, Madison’s Economic Development Division Director. “And we suspect that we are going to be issuing at least an additional $1 million before we finish reviewing all the applications we received.”
While applications have now closed for city grants, local officials are looking to continue providing economic assistance programs through other locally funded initiatives. Examples discussed during the meeting include assisting local businesses to improve their online retailing efforts.
City officials are also working on extending the “Streatery Program,” a program created last year that allowed Madison restaurants to implement outdoor seating in warmer weather without applying or paying for street vending fees.
The Common Council voted to extend the program for the year 2021, however questions remain if the program will be allowed to continue into 2022.
“Next week Tuesday, the council is going to consider ordinance changes that will extend that streatery program all the way through April of 2022,” said Mikolajewsk.
The renewal of the Streatery Program will provide local restaurants, particularly those located on State Street, the opportunity to safely serve customers this upcoming spring. This is especially important now as the availability for COVID-19 vaccines are limited and new COVID-19 variants have started to appear in Dane County.
“The Streatery Program is really an attempt to address the situation that we’re facing today relative to COVID,” stated Mikolajewsk at the press briefing. “We’re also starting to ask the question: How can we build back to better as we are moving out of the covid pandemic? And how can we create a more diverse and inclusive business community, especially a small business community in the years ahead?”