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Dane Co. rolls out $4 million in assistance for small businesses

The new funding will prioritize businesses hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:31 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:41 PM CST
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County announced new grant funding for small businesses Tuesday, giving a lifeline to business owners suffering financial stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. County officials and some business owners call the move a step in the right direction.

For eight years, Becky Petersen has owned her dream business, Kula Yoga & Wellness in Cottage Grove.

“I just felt the real calling and the real need for this in my community,” Petersen said of starting the business in 2012.

However, since March 2020, her studio has set empty.

“These aerial yoga silks and things like this, that is not something I can teach on Zoom,” Petersen explained.

Other than a few outdoor classes in summer, Petersen moved entirely online. That meant cutting down on classes and taking a major financial hit.

“The bank had already been broken by the pandemic,” she said.

In May, Dane County rolled out $10 million to help small business owners like Peterson. She said it was a lifesaver.

“I was able to take a deep breath and realize okay, I can set this aside, this is going to pay my rent,” Peterson explained. She said she also used the money to cover utilities and invest in technology to improve virtual classes.

On Tuesday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced an additional $4 million in grant money for small businesses, in partnership with Dane Buy Local.

“It’s our local businesses that truly make our community special and really are a reflection of who we are in a community,” Parisi said.

The grants, up to $50,000 each, will be allocated by Dane Buy Local. They will focus on the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, like retail, restaurants and fitness centers.

“The struggles that these local businesses have are real and they continue, but now they have a lifeline,” said Dane Buy Local executive director Colin Murray.

Murray added Dane Buy Local will also be working with the Latino Chamber of Commerce and the Black Chamber of Commerce to make sure grant funding is accessible to business owners of color.

Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi and Dane Buy Local announced an additional $4 million in grant money for small businesses...

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Petersen said of the funding, “It was...a morale booster, to feel like I was seen, I was heard.”

Petersen and county officials said the grant money is a step in the right direction, but long-term, continued assistance is necessary for businesses to survive beyond the pandemic.

“It’s not a flip of a switch and everything’s all better,” Petersen said.

Parisi added, “It’s only an interim step, but we need the federal government to step up to the plate.”

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the federal government will also be available for business owners, but Parisi and Murray both said even that is a short-term fix.

Dane Buy Local will start accepting grant applications later in the week. The grants are available only for Dane County businesses, and the money must be used for COVID-related expenses.

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