TUE AM News: Wisconsin companies get over $379 million from Restaurant Revitalization Fund; Performance report highlights Foxconn expenditures

— Just over 2,000 Wisconsin businesses have received a total of more than $379 million from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, according to figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

But nearly three times that number had applied for more than almost $1 million in total funding from the fund, with the majority of applicants being turned away. 

“For those who received it, it’s a big shot in the arm,” said Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer in an interview. “For those who didn’t, it’s going to be tough.” 

As the state and national economies continue their slow recovery from last year’s downturn caused by the pandemic, Hillmer explains that many restaurants in the state are struggling to find staff and get back to normal operations. 

She said the SBA dollars that were provided are “really vital funds for our industry,” but that more are needed to support all the businesses that are still struggling. 

In total, 5,871 businesses in the state applied for $994.6 million in funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. But just 2,095 of those applicants received a total of $379.3 million, according to the SBA figures provided to WisBusiness.com by Hillmer. 

On the national level, over 278,000 applicants sought more than $72 billion from the fund, and around 101,000 received more than $28 billion in funding. The SBA also retracted awards for 2,695 applicants nationwide who had initially been told their applications were accepted, Hillmer said. 

“These are restaurants who were approved and received the approval letter but had not yet received the funds,” she said. “These are national numbers; they did not disclose state-specific numbers. We do know that [there] are a number in our state, though.” 

She said the funds for those applicants were diverted to “other non-priority restaurants who were just as deserving, but not in the priority group of women-owned, veteran-owned, or socio & economically disadvantaged.” That occurred because federal lawsuits led to a ruling that the SBA’s policy of awarding funds to these “priority groups” was discriminatory, leading to the agency rescinding those awards. 

In order to qualify for the program, restaurants had to demonstrate losses, and any funds received from the Paycheck Protection Program had to be deducted from that total loss before they applied for the grant. 

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created through the American Rescue Plan Act to help restaurants and other eligible businesses such as bars stay open. The SBA site shows funds were limited to $10 million per business and $5 million per physical location. Recipients aren’t required to repay the funds if they’re used no later than March 11, 2023. 

Since the fund ran out with about two-thirds of applicants left empty-handed, federal lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill that would replenish the fund with $60 billion. If the effort is successful, Hillmer says the replenished fund would likely “take care of those who are in line” who applied the first time around but received no funds. 

See more on the fund here: http://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/restaurant-revitalization-fund 

— In its latest performance report submitted to state officials, Foxconn says it has spent more than $542.3 million on its Wisconsin facilities between the start of 2018 and the end of 2020.

The report was submitted by the company near the beginning of July, and was obtained by WisBusiness.com through an open records request with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. That total is around 80 percent of the company’s target for capital investment of $672 million. 

Broken down by year, Foxconn says it spent approximately $280 million on its Wisconsin facilities over 2018 and 2019, and $262.3 million during 2020. 

The Taiwanese company could earn around $29 million in state tax credits for those capital expenditures and jobs it’s created in the state so far based on the latest version of Foxconn’s contract with the state, a news report from the Wisconsin State Journal shows. But the company’s latest report must first be audited by a third party and verified by WEDC. 

The original deal between Foxconn and the state would have allowed for billions of dollars in state tax credits if the company had met the terms of the contract, but that was later amended to reflect the much smaller projected impact of the project in Mount Pleasant.

Also in the latest Foxconn report, company Chairman Young Liu and Vice Chairman Jay Lee highlight the company’s “commitment to making business work in Wisconsin” despite the global economic uncertainty of the previous year. 

“As a contract manufacturer, Foxconn has found business opportunities with companies interested in purchasing products made in the United States with supply chain security peace of mind,” they wrote in their message to state officials. “As this business continues to grow, so too will Wisconsin’s reputation for being a manufacturer of data infrastructure.”

They say that Foxconn’s “future remains bright” in Wisconsin, pointing to “exciting times” to come. 

— Fisker has confirmed that it and Foxconn have begun discussions with state officials about the possibility of producing electric vehicles in the state. 

“As part of the site selection process, Foxconn and Fisker have engaged with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to discuss plans for electric vehicle manufacturing. Foxconn and Fisker look forward to the discussions with the WEDC,” the company said in a statement. 

When asked for comment, a WEDC spokesman said the agency’s policy is “not to comment on any discussions it may or may not have with a business unless and until a contract is executed.” 

See more in Foxconn Reports below. 

— Four Dem lawmakers are circulating legislation that would put state tax dollars into financing $65 million in loans to help cooperatives purchase and reopen two central Wisconsin mills.

The bill comes after Tony Evers vetoed a similar proposal that called for the guv to use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to cover the loans. Evers wrote in his veto message he had concerns the use of federal funds wouldn’t be allowed and noted the state was flush with general purpose revenue, which he preferred be used for the effort.

The new legislation also differs from that GOP bill because it calls for putting up to $53 million in state tax dollars into K-12 and higher education. That’s because the state must meet federal requirements to maintain the share of its spending going toward K-12 and higher education to qualify for some $2.3 billion in aid for K-12 under the last two COVID-19 stimulus packages. Any additional GPR spending beyond what’s in the budget Evers signed last week could require more funding for schools and higher education to maintain the required balance of spending.

GOP Sen. Pat Testin, one of the co-authors of the bill Evers vetoed, said he has concerns about the price tag on the new bill with the education money included. He also noted a Connecticut-based company has now made an offer to buy the company that owns the shuttered mill in Wisconsin Rapids. It was unclear how that might impact any need for state assistance.

“From my perspective, we’re still going to pursue any potential avenue to get a resolution for the mills,” Testin said.

The new bill is similar to the one Evers vetoed into that it would authorize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to award a loan of up to $50 million to a cooperative or another borrower to purchase and upgrade the Verso Paper Mill in Wisconsin Rapids. It includes a similar loan of up to $15 million for a cooperative or eligible borrower to purchase and upgrade the Park Falls Pulp and Paper Mill in that city.

See more at WisPolitics.com: http://www.wispolitics.com/2021/mon-pm-update-dem-bill-would-use-state-tax-dollars-to-finance-loans-for-shuttered-paper-mills/ 

— An executive with the Oneida Nation told “UpFront” the tribe is hopeful the Bureau of Indian Affairs will approve the tribe’s deal with the state to offer betting on professional sports at its casino outside of Green Bay.

Chad Fuss, Oneida gaming assistant chief financial officer, said the tribe has been working on sports and event betting for several years. If the BIA approves, he said the tribe will convert a former sports bar at its casino into a betting parlor. He said it will be another amenity for casino customers.

“We wanted to stay at least even with our competition, if not give our customers another reason to visit Oneida Casino that maybe the other casinos in the state of Wisconsin currently at this time cannot offer,” Fuss said Sunday during the show, produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.

He added that Oneida expects other tribes in Wisconsin are researching sports and event betting.

“I think we’d be naive to think that the other 10 tribes in the state of Wisconsin aren’t looking at it,” Fuss said.

See more from the program: http://www.wisn.com/upfront

— As state health officials continue to track the more contagious COVID-19 variants, community health leaders are urging state residents to get vaccinated. 

In a recent video discussion published by UW-Madison, UW School of Medicine and Public Health preventative medicine resident Dr. Devlin Cole stresses that getting vaccinated is “the single best thing you can do” to get protected against the virus, including the emerging variants. 

She explains that communities with higher rates of vaccination are protecting unvaccinated children as well as other adults who are unable to get the vaccine for health reasons. 

“The risks are higher because this variant is a little bit more powerful, but the good news is, we’ve got vaccines coming soon for children under 12,” she said. “Theoretically, we should have those as soon as September or October.” 

But Cole said even vaccinated people who become infected with the delta variant “have more breakthrough infections,” meaning they have more viral replication and might be more likely to spread the virus to other people. 

Still, areas with high vaccination rates won’t have to worry as much about that, because most residents are protected by their vaccine. She noted areas with high vaccination rates are seeing lower infection rates among unvaccinated children. 

“So you’re doing yourself a service by protecting yourself more, and you’re doing your loved ones and your community a service by getting your vaccine,” she said. “Because when we all get it together, we actually get to protect those of us that can’t.” 

State health officials have identified 83 cases of the delta variant in Wisconsin, the Department of Health Services site shows. The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the state has slowed, but efforts continue with about 50.8 percent of the state’s total population having received at least one vaccine dose. 

See the latest DHS vaccination numbers: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-data.htm 

Track COVID-19 variants in the state here: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/variants.htm 

— UW Health is offering COVID-19 vaccines at more of its primary care clinics in hopes of getting more people vaccinated. 

A release shows that COVID-19 vaccines are now available at 10 UW Health clinics in Dane County, and most of the health care provider’s clinics will have vaccines available “in the coming weeks.” 

Andrea Wipperfurth, director of the ambulatory care model at UW Health, is urging patients to request a COVID-19 vaccination when they schedule their next health care appointment. 

“Providing vaccines at local clinics makes it even easier for patients and community members to access a vaccine if they still need one, and it allows us to combat this virus like other diseases that require a routine vaccination, such as the flu,” she said in a statement. 

See the release: http://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/uw-health-offers-covid-19-vaccines-at-primary-care-clinics/ 

<i>The free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com has been covering vaccination rates this week. For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up here: http://forms.gle/o8FtqTLviGJPja8C9</i>


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