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Evers proposes $200 million to help small businesses recover from pandemic

In addition, he is proposing more than $29 million for workforce development initiatives and $100 million venture capital program
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Published: Feb. 14, 2021 at 12:13 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - One week after Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced a proposal for legalizing medical and recreational marijuana in his upcoming 2021-2023 biennial budget, Evers has announced a second part of the budget that would help small businesses in the state recover from the pandemic.

On Sunday, Evers announced his upcoming budget proposal will include more than $200 million to help small businesses, as well as an additional $100 million for a new venture capital program and another $29 million for workforce development initiatives.

Evers says the proposal is part of his Badger Bounceback agenda to help rebound Wisconsin’s economy.

Thousands of small businesses in the state had previously received a total of roughly $240 million through the We’re All In grant program set up by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The proposed $200 million, according to Evers, will allow the WEDC to help the state’s small business recover from the pandemic, and also provide assistance for job retention and rehiring.

The governor’s office announced Evers is proposing increasing the WEDC’s annual block grant by $10 million in each year of the biennium to bring the total investment to $51.5 million a year. Evers says the increase will provide the WEDC with additional resources across its range of programs to help businesses, communities, and organizations. According to the governor’s office, in order to make sure the investment is felt across the state and in an equitable manner, Evers’ proposal includes the following:

  • Providing a one-time $8 million investment for the WEDC to award to organizations focused on local or regional economic development
  • Promoting entrepreneurship in underserved communities with $10 million in direct investment activity
  • Provide $780,000 in tribal gaming revenue over the biennium to support business and communities in the state’s 11 federally recognized tribes

In regards to workforce initiatives, Evers says his $29 million proposal will provide $8 million throughout the biennium to fund pandemic recovery grants for local workforce development boards, invest $10 million during the biennium in the Fast Forward program that supports training for people, businesses, and organizations affected by the pandemic, and also give an additional $1 million to the Fast Forward program in order to train those working in conservation and sustainability.

The other part of the $29 million proposal includes a provision of $500,000 to expand youth apprenticeship opportunities to more districts throughout the state, transfer $250,000 from the Fast Forward program to provide more resources for young adults with disabilities through Project SEARCH, and create a new worker program that centers on the customer within the Department of Workforce Development with Career Coaches. The $9.7 million investment would help those overcoming barriers to get employment.

Meanwhile, Evers says the venture capital investment proposal of $100 million would be directed by the WEDC, and would allow startup growth in the state, and jumpstart innovation.

The governor says the program will be a fun of funds invested program, and no investment made by the fund of funds in a recipient venture capital fund may exceed $25 million. He adds the venture capital funds receiving an investment from the fund of funds program must commit to investing that amount in Wisconsin, and the investments must get a one-to-one match at minimum with private sources. for example, the program as a whole attains a required match rate of two private dollars for every state dollar that is invested in the program.

According to Evers, the program will require at least 20% of the total funds being managed be invested in minority-owned or women-owned firms, or in businesses located in underserved areas.

Evers adds the WEDC will establish an oversight board with various responsibilities related to the establishment and management of the program

The governor is expected to announce his full budget proposal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, according to Wisconsin Eye.

Folks, I'll be delivering my biennial budget address next week. Tune in to hear about our plan to help Wisconsin bounce back from this pandemic. Watch on Facebook and YouTube ⬇️

Posted by Governor Tony Evers on Saturday, February 13, 2021

As Action 2 News previously reported, Evers announced last weekend he intends to propose legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana in his budget. Currently, both recreational and medical marijuana are illegal in Wisconsin, but CBD oils is allowed.

During his previous 2019-21 budget, a proposal focused on legalizing medical marijuana failed to make it through the legislature.

Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 15 states and in D.C., while 16 states have decriminalized recreational use at various levels.

The Evers Administration’s plan would give the responsibility for taxing and regulating the marijuana industry to the Dept. of Revenue and the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. His office compared it to how alcohol is regulated today.

The Evers Administration is arguing that legalizing marijuana will increase revenue, create jobs, and ease the burden on the criminal justice system.

The governor’s office estimated legalization would raise more than $165 million per year in revenue, starting in the second year of the budget. Evers explained he would like to see nearly half of that number ($80 million) set aside for a new community reinvestment fund. He would also like to see approximately $34 million go toward supporting small, rural school districts.

Action 2 News will update this story with reaction from Republican lawmakers as we hear back from them.

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