- Wisconsin will offer $45 million in assistance to restaurants and other targeted small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release.
- The program, We're All In For Restaurants, will provide $20,000 for eligible businesses by year-end. Unlike previous grants under this program, restaurants won't need to apply and will be identified by the Department of Revenue based on tax records. The DOR will administer the funds in coordination with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
- Wisconsin joins several other municipalities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., that have offered targeted funding for restaurants to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. The state will use funding received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which expires on Dec. 31, but additional federal funding has yet to be approved.
With the future of the Restaurants Act — which would provide $120 billion in targeted relief to the restaurant industry — still in limbo, many states have stepped up by providing relief to help restaurants get through the winter months, especially with CARES Act funding about to expire.
"Restaurants and other venues have been among the businesses hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic," Gov. Tony Evers said in the release. "They've made the tough decisions to keep employees and customers safe by restricting indoor seating, offering delivery and curbside pick-up, and providing outdoor tables. We greatly appreciate the changes they've made to prioritize the health and safety of our communities, but now with winter coming, we are glad to provide this support at a critical time."
Wisconsin’s latest program is a little different from those in other states, as businesses don't need to apply and the DOR has already estimated that 95% of the 2,000 businesses to receive funds will be restaurants. The program targets restaurants with annual revenue between $1 million and $7 million compared to previous programs that focused on businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million, according to the press release. Recipients will be contacted directly by the DOR.
As cases continue to rise in Wisconsin, many restaurants are left wondering what the future holds. A 25% capacity dining room restriction expired on Nov. 6 and the governor has yet to issue any new restrictions. Some restaurants are putting themselves on lockdown, offering takeout and delivery only, similar to what occurred in March.
Eighty-five percent of restaurants said their August sales volumes were lower than last year, according to a Wisconsin Restaurant Association survey. Nearly three-fourths said they didn’t expect sales returning to pre-pandemic levels in the next six months while another third said they didn't expect their businesses to be open after six months if nothing changes.