Opportunity Wisconsin: Wisconsin small business owner: “Sen. Johnson is working very, very hard…at embarrassing himself.”

Virtual discussion with State Treasurer Godlewski comes as COVID relief negotiations continue in Congress

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MILWAUKEE, Wis.— As Wisconsin waits for Congress to pass much-needed economic relief, last night Opportunity Wisconsin and Main Street Alliance virtually sat down with Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and small business owners from across the state. 

“Now that the election results have been decided and certified, it’s long past time for our elected officials to move forward together to address the many issues still facing Wisconsinites,” said Melissa Bucholz of Odd Duck in Milwaukee. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. For months of the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners have been left to fend for themselves in Wisconsin.” [WATCH]

Participants discussed the difficulties that they still face due to the bungled COVID-19 response under the current administration, how economic uncertainty has impacted their day-to-day lives, the changes they have had to make to try to remain operational and keep on their staff during the pandemic, and the economic impacts of those changes.

“[Congress] passed the Paycheck Protection Program, and while that did help some small businesses, it was also riddled with mismanagement, as literally millions went to large corporations – we’re talking pharmaceutical companies and hedge funds and private equity,” said State Treasurer Godlewski. “And that was money that was supposed to go to Main Street, not Wall Street.” [WATCH

On Friday morning, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson objected to a request for the Senate to pass $1,200 direct COVID relief payments to individuals making up to $75,000 per year, citing the deficit. In 2017, Senator Johnson supported President Trump’s tax cuts for billionaires and big corporations, which added $1.3 trillion to the deficit.    

“Let’s be fair. Senator Ron Johnson is working very, very hard…at embarrassing himself,” said Darren Price of BP Smokehouse BBQ in Tomah. “I have yet to hear words come out of his mouth about Wisconsin businesses and what we’re going through. There’s a total disconnect.”  [WATCH]

Price continued, “We do need help. We need assistance from our representatives, and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that these people work for us, yet in this crisis, they don’t hear us. They have their own agenda and it has nothing to do with the small business operator who is the backbone [of the community].” [WATCH]

“[Majority Leader] McConnell, put the bills out there, please. There’s $50 billion that passed the House for child care with strong bipartisan support. You won’t even let it see the light of day,” said Corrine Hendrickson of Corrine’s Little Explorers in New Glarus. “Senator Johnson, I have reached out to your office. I either get nothing back, or I get ‘that’s a state’s issue.’ Well I’m sorry, but you’re my federal representative for my state, so why are you not bringing my state dollars back?” [WATCH]

Participants in Thursday night’s conversation also lamented the patchwork of public health enforcement across the state and country and how it has impacted their ability to do business.  

“The idea that public health recommendations have become politicized is mind blowing, and our elected leaders should be role models and lead the charge in public health and keeping the public safe and healthy,” said Joella Striebel of Old Towne Strings in La Crosse. “We want our businesses to thrive, we want our customers to be able to safely patronize our businesses, we want to be safe while we’re at work and trying to keep our businesses going, so seeing that politicized is very disappointing and very frustrating.” [WATCH]

“Without small businesses, our communities do not exist. Any town can have an Applebee’s and a Walmart and all that, but without the Odd Ducks and Bounce Milwaukees and barbecue places, our communities are not the same, and once these businesses die, we can’t bring that back in the same way. We lose the community,” said Becky Cooper of Bounce in Milwaukee. [WATCH]

Members of the media wishing to speak with event participants should email [email protected]