New assistance for businesses hit by flooding

Wisconsin businesses affected by the recent heavy rains and flooding can now apply for small loans for short-term repairs.

Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday that $4 million is available for businesses and homeowners under two new programs. This comes after he declared a State of Emergency in late August in response to the extreme weather.

“While the floodwaters have receded, we know hundreds of businesses and homeowners are still dealing with the costs associated with the flooding that hit much of the state,” Walker said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is getting half of that, to be distributed through the Disaster Recovery Microloan Program. The other half is going to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

According to a release from Walker’s office, businesses and homes in 21 Wisconsin counties were damaged after torrential rains led to dangerous flooding. Over 4,300 homes and 140 businesses saw more than $150 million in damages, Walker’s office says. Those estimates come from Wisconsin Emergency Management.

WEDC will award grants to regional entities, which will dole out the $2 million in microloans of up to $15,000. These funds can be used for cleanup and restoration, short-term operating expenses, temporary workspace, and to pay for the actual repair and construction work.

These no-interest loans have a two-year repayment period, and recipients will have at least six months before they need to start paying them back. Forgivable loans of the same amount “may also be offered to small businesses,” per the release.

Eligible businesses must be located in or be “directly adjacent” to the region overseen by the regional entity, and suffered measurable physical damage from the recent rainfall. They must also intend to resume operations “as quickly as possible.”

The loan program is technically open to businesses in all 72 counties, but WEDC is first working with the regional entities in parts of the state hit hardest. Those include the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission, the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

On the homeowner side, WHEDA’s Flood Relief Loan program will be providing no-interest loans up to $10,000 to repair homes damaged by flooding. Those funds can be used for repairing or replacing heating, electrical or plumbing systems, as well as structural fixes.

A resource workshop is planned for this morning at 9 a.m. for businesses in southwestern Wisconsin affected by flooding. It’s being held at the Viroqua American Legion.

Also on Friday, the guv announced a $2.8 million emergency contract to rebuild two Black Earth bridges that were damaged by flooding in August. Kraemer North America of Plain is the primary contractor, and work has already begun.

Two U.S. 14 bridges crossing Black Earth Creek in western Dane County are being replaced. Construction is expected to finish up by mid-November.

–By Alex Moe