Second Portage County Economic Recovery briefing covers financial tools for businesses; Over 100 connect online and via phone

By Taylor J. Hale, Stevens Point News

PORTAGE COUNTY – Area leaders gathered for the second Portage County Economic Recovery briefing on April 22. State Representative Katrina Shankland and State Senator Patrick Testin were in attendance during the online session, with over 100 participants via phone and online.

Speakers presented information on different financial tools available to the public to aid business owners during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting featured information on state and county aid programs and information, including CWED loans and City of Stevens Point COVID-19 Emergency grants.

Shankland and Testin presentations

Shankland touched on the state’s Act 185 bill, the CARE Act, the Short Term Compensation program and other legislative changes designed to help the state cope with the unstable economy spurred by the virus.

Act 185: The state will set aside $76 million for the Department of Administration in existing funds to help tackle COVID-19. The program also features language on worker’s compensation and hazard pay protections for some health care workers and other economic modifications. The bill also exempts manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of emergency medical supplies that donate or sell in response to the COVID-19 health emergency and makes it easier for health care and EMS to practice in this state during health emergencies.

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act offers the unemployed an additional $600 of compensation. The program also provides unemployment insurance (UI) to otherwise non-eligible workers, like those who are self-employed or independent contractors. The act also offers an additional 13 weeks of UI emergency benefits when necessary.

Short Term Compensation Program STC : The state’s STC program allows employers to reduce employee hours by up to 60 percent without forcing layoffs. The program can help retain employees to avoid further unemployment when beneficial.
Testin noted that he hopes to see the state work together to stay safe and begin work on restarting Wisconsin’s economy.

“In conversations I’ve had with several of my colleagues, I think we can take a look at a regional approached, and take it county by county, as opposed to just one size fits all that has been handed down by the administration for better or worse,” Testin stated.
The senator also said that the state is relaxing requirements necessary for nursing-aids to practice in the state, allowing for more available staff to assist at nursing homes, hospitals, and other care facilities.


CWED Micro Loans

Central Wisconsin Economic Development Fund (CWED) Administrator Kristin Fish-Peterson spoke about open CWED Micro Loans that are available to Portage County businesses.
The loans can range from $5-$50,000 and can be utilized for working capital, inventory purchase, leaseholds, natural disaster recovery and other financial needs.

“This is the original language of this fund,” said Fish-Peterson. “It seems like it was written for this purpose.”

The loans carry a 4-6 percent interest rate, require a 20 percent match of private funds, and require collateral, but Fish-Peterson noted CWED is not looking to add any additional burdens to business owners.

“We don’t want your CWED loan to be a source of anxiety, we want you to have a sense of peace about it,” she explained.

CWED operates in Portage, Wood, Adams, Marathon, Lincoln, Forrest, and Vilas counties.
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