RIVER FALLS — Local businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for $5,000 or $10,000 loans to help recover, the city announced Thursday, May 21.

The $500,000 program, part of the city’s Commercial Revolving Loan program set up in 2001, is meant to supplement other financing, such as bank loans or Small Business Association financing, according to a news release.

“We decided to use some of the current program funds, supplemented by money from our general fund, to help our local businesses who have been devastated by the pandemic,” River Falls Administrator Scot Simpson said. “Those businesses are the lifeblood of our community and it is critical that we help ensure their viability throughout this difficult time.”

Though funding for the program has not been approved by City Council, Simpson said the city is getting a head start on the application process. The council’s next meeting is Tuesday, May 26.

Eligible businesses must be physically based within the city, have 25 or fewer employees and have been in operation for at least a year as of May 1, 2020.

The four-year loans have a 2% interest rate paid quarterly starting in October.

  • Find more details and guidelines here.

Applications, available on the city’s website, are due 5 p.m. June 5. The plan is for a committee to meet June 9 to review applications.

If funds still remain after the first round of loans, a second round is possible, the news release states.

State relief

Gov. Tony Evers this week announced a bevy of COVID-19 relief programs funded largely by federal dollars received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES.

On Monday, May 18, the governor announced $75 million in assistance for small businesses as part of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s “We’re All In” initiative, a comprehensive effort to celebrate and help Wisconsin’s small businesses get back on their feet and support best practices to keep businesses, consumers, employees and communities safe.

The initiative will provide direct assistance to small businesses most impacted by the duration and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cash grants of $2,500 can be used to cover the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages and inventory. Businesses will be able to apply for grant assistance in early June.

Grant recipients will commit to using safety protocols in their shops, cafes and places of work to protect their customers, employees and communities.

The initiative will include:

  • Grants of $2,500 to small businesses with 20 or fewer full-time equivalents affected by COVID-19 that have not already received WEDC COVID-19 assistance. Up to 30,000 businesses may receive grants.
  • A series of guides for businesses looking to implement best practices to keep employees, customers and communities safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis. These guides are available at wedc.org/reopen-guidelines.
  • Ethnic Minority Emergency Grants, which will provide $2 million in grants for ethnically diverse Wisconsin micro-businesses that suffered losses due to the pandemic. The grants are for sole proprietorships or businesses with five or fewer employees that have not received assistance under either Small Business 20/20 program or SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. A total of 1,000 grants of $2,000 each will be administered.
  • An integrated public information campaign promoting We’re All In businesses and social practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Service providers

On Thursday, May 21, the governor further announced a $100 million grant program for emergency medical and home/community-based service providers as well as long-term care providers such as skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

“These providers need this additional funding to maintain patient care of the highest quality,” Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said. “The services they provide save lives on a daily basis, and that is especially true during this pandemic.”

The program, funded through the CARES Act, will be doled out in two parts: An initial release for immediate COVID-19 needs and a second, targeted release to meet specific needs for individual service providers.

The grants are designed to help with expenses caused by the pandemic as well as changes to typical operations such as overtime pay and extra sanitation.

Farmers and food insecurity

Wisconsin farmers will be able to apply for direct relief payments through a $50 million Farm Support Program announced Wednesday. And an additional $15 million Food Security Initiative will support food banks, pantries and other nonprofits affected by the pandemic.

Farmers will apply through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, which is collaborating on the program with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Payments could begin as early as June, according to a news release.

“Farmers have asked for help, and this direct aid is meant to aid the farmers who are the foundation of our food system,” Evers said. “Farmers also serve as the backbone of many of Wisconsin’s local rural economies, and these direct payments will help revitalize local economies and jump-start Wisconsin’s food supply chain, which has been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Several Wisconsin agriculture groups including Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Corn Growers Association Issued a joint statement Wednesday thanking Evers for acknowledging the needs of farmers.

According to the statement: “The pandemic’s crushing economic effects on our commodity markets are unprecedented. The crisis severely twisted our supply chains, devastated our labor force and created anxiety for our customers. COVID-19 will likely bankrupt many multi-generational farms in Wisconsin.”

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Brunswick, who represents a small portion of St. Croix County and parts of Pierce County including Prescott and Ellsworth, in a statement Wednesday said the pandemic has been “disastrous” for Wisconsin’s farmers. He also called on additional measures to address other difficulties farmers face.

“While cutting checks directly to farmers is great news, we must continue working to solve the deeper issues like market accessibility and mental health challenges that plague our hard working farmers,” Smith said.

Rental assistance

Renters in Wisconsin who have had their income affected by the pandemic will be able to apply for financial support through a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program announced Wednesday.

Applicants must be an adult resident of the state with a household income at or below 80% of the county median income in the current or previous month. If approved, applicants will receive up to $3,000 for rental payments and security deposits to pay directly to landlords.

“Wisconsinites have enough to worry about as we continue to battle the deadly COVID-19 virus,” Evers said. “They should not also have to worry about losing the roofs over their head.”

  • More information about the program is available here.

The program is administered by the Department of Administration.

“Collaborations with ‘boots-on-the-ground’ partner organizations will be critical to ensuring eligible Wisconsin residents are aware of this new program and are able to receive rental assistance relief quickly,” DOA Secretary Joel Brennan said.

Reporter Shelley Nelson contributed to this story.