Madison’s City Council adopted a $750,000 program to support diverse and traditionally underrepresented small business owners and entrepreneurs.
The Small Business Equity Recovery program aims to create a path toward equitable success, especially within the Black community, by providing tools and resources for entrepreneurs to prepare for a post-pandemic struggling economy.
The program could include a number of initiatives aimed at providing financial assistance and business opportunities. For example, the resolution creating the program suggests creating a BusinessReady program that could be modeled after the MarketReady Program, which trains vendors to be successful in the future Madison Public Market.
“It begins to look to the future to entrepreneurs who may be interested in starting a business,” Economic Development Director Matt Mikolajewski said.
It also addresses business owners’ additional needs during the coronavirus pandemic through grants to purchase new pandemic essentials like Personal Protective Equipment, provide assistance to those who have suffered disproportionate revenue losses in 2020, support accessibility improvements and improve commercial spaces.
These grants would be targeted to business owners of color and owners who have historically been underrepresented.
Under the program, the city could also underwrite pop-up retail opportunities and technical assistance for business owners.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced her support of continuing the program by including $6.5 million over the next five years in her 2021 Capital Improvement Plan “to promote equity and resilience during this time of economic recovery.”
“I’m hopeful that this program will support small businesses through the pandemic and everything else that’s happened in our community next year,” Rhodes-Conway said at her budget announcement press conference.
The resolution adopted Tuesday provides funding in the 2020 budget by transferring $303,000 from a City-County Building remodeling project, $250,000 from the Midtown Police Station and $197,000 from planning efforts for a North Side Public Safety Campus.
Downtown recovery program
Also, alders adjusted an existing grant program to make funds available for small, independently owned downtown businesses that have suffered “extraordinary losses” in 2020. Priority will be given to applicants who are people of color, immigrants, women, those who are disabled, veterans and any other underrepresented groups.
The resolution, sponsored by District 3 alder Lindsay Lemmer, adds the Downtown Recovery Program to the current Facade Improvement Program, which has an existing balance of $60,000. The 2020 Capital Budget included $125,000 for facade improvement grants.
Council members voted 13-5 with two Alds. Christian Albouras, District 20, and Shiva Bidar, District 5, excused from the meeting. Alds. Arvina Martin, District 11; Max Prestigiacomo, District 8; Samba Baldeh, District 17; Grant Foster, District 15; and Rebecca Kemble, District 18; voted against the proposal.
Under the program, eligible applicants could receive grants of up to $12,000. Funded expenses are limited to exterior repair and the cleaning of interior spaces. The grants would not cover loss of business, payroll and related operating costs.
The city-provided grants will be matched dollar-for-dollar by non-city resources.
Proposals to support downtown businesses that were damaged following protests at the end of May have been circulating since June.
At its meeting July 21 on a 14-6 vote, the City Council shelved proposals that would have allocated $250,000 for a citywide recovery program and $500,000 for a citywide equity program. Previous proposals limited the programs to downtown and allocated $250,000 for each program.
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