Governor Tony Evers awarded more than $86 million in grants on March 21 to support small businesses in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic that have historically had difficulty accessing credit and capital.

Of the more than $86 million, $57.6 million in grants were awarded through the Diverse Business Assistance Grant Program to 24 chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations providing assistance to small businesses.

“We’re continuing to build a strong and resilient economy that works for everyone, and that means encouraging business development in communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic and often face barriers to getting the tools and resources they need to be successful,” said Governor Evers. “By supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs, these grant programs will ensure job growth, stronger communities, and a brighter, more equitable future for Wisconsin.”

The grants will support the work of chambers of commerce across the state in providing coaching and mentoring, technical assistance, equipment and internet services, digital literacy, online marketing and social media training, financial aid, and financial literacy support, as well as networking and educational opportunities for new business owners and emerging entrepreneurs.

“These grants are just a part of the funds that we need to help our businesses recover from COVID,” said Jason Rae, president and CEO of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “If we want to raise our community out of poverty, discrimination and fear, we need to proactively bolster our business owners and help them recover and grow.”

Another $28.8 million in grants were awarded through the Diverse Business Investment Grant Program to nine Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The CDFIs support micro and small businesses not only through lending and providing access to capital and credit, but many also support programs that provide additional technical assistance, coaching and mentoring, and credit counseling.

“We know that there’s a financial wealth gap in America, and we know that a great part of that financial wealth gap is tied to ethnic and diverse communities not having equitable access to business resources and funding,” Maysee Herr, executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. “Our staff work every day to try to bridge that gap.”

Part of a more than $1 billion investment allocated by the governor for economic resilience and support for small businesses and impacted industries, the Diverse Business Assistance and the Diverse Business Investment Grant Programs were first announced in October 2021 to support an equitable economic recovery in Wisconsin and help businesses that have been both severely distressed by the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and have historically had difficulty accessing the credit and capital necessary to recover. Both programs are administered by DOA and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“Local chambers, nonprofit organizations, CDFIs, and other organizations selected for these grants work closely with local businesses and are uniquely positioned to provide technical assistance and expertise to help diverse businesses succeed,” said Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld. “We’re proud to support these efforts and ensure that many more of our communities can experience a strong recovery.”

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