'Badger Bounceback' program started by Wisconsin governor has provided $8 billion in aid

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Over 1.4 million Wisconsin residents and 100,000 businesses have benefited from Gov. Tony Evers' pandemic relief program, which is supported by federal funding.

Badger Bounceback, a program in Wisconsin implemented by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in 2020, has sent over $8.5 billion in aid to businesses, charitable organizations, schools and other institutions in the state. According to data released by the state, more than 1.4 million Wisconsin residents have benefited from the program.

Badger Bounceback, also referred to as Badger Bounce Back, was started after the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; Wisconsin was one of the states that received funds under the act.

Evers has used money received under the CARES Act as well as under the American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021, to fund assistance programs for all 72 counties and 12 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin.

"While being safe at home continues to be important, this plan is an all-out attack on the virus and it begins the process of preparing our businesses and our workforce for the important planning that will result in the safe and logical reopening of our economy," Evers said in a statement announcing the launch of the program on April 20, 2020.

Business owners across the state have said the assistance provided to them under the program has been vital to keeping them in business and allowing them to expand operations.

Local outlet SWNews4u.com reported on the case of Ferryville Sportsman's Bar, located in the village of Ferryville, Wisconsin, which was initially forced to close in August 2021 in response to the pandemic. Karyl Fritsche, who owns several other businesses in the region, came to take control of the business. After applying to, and receiving funding from, the Bounceback program, Ferryville returned to operations in the spring of 2022.

"I was able to secure Badger Bounceback funding to help reopen the business," Fritsche said. "That funding really served its purpose of encouraging new business ventures in vacant commercial spaces and facilitated my decision to take the step."

Studio One Photography, a small business located in Superior, Wisconsin, used money from a Main Street Bounceback grant to move to a historic building in the town. Proprietor JoAnn Jardine told the Superior Telegram that she used the money to remodel the space and to subsidize the cost of rent.

Jardine said the new location has increased her business volume and the overall visibility of the studio.

Monica Lara, owner of Argentum et Aurum Jewelry, located in downtown Fond du Lac, received a $10,000 Bounceback grant to open her business on Main Street. "I've been selling jewelry. People are starting to get to know me. It's like a dream to be on Main Street," she said in a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Gathered Roots, a shared shopping space also located in Fond du Lac, was launched as the pandemic began and used Bounceback funding to assist operations. Evers and Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez toured Gathered Roots on Jan. 4.

According to Spectrum News, co-owner Donna Pierce said, "Doing this project during the onset of the pandemic, we saw all the same struggles that everybody else did with supplies skyrocketing so that Bounceback Grant came at a pivotal time for us to get through just being able to renovate this space."

Bounceback funds were used to assist other institutions and organizations providing vital services across the state.

$2.5 billion went to local schools as part of federal relief efforts to manage the effects of the pandemic, while another $700 million was used to keep child care providers afloat during the crisis.

An additional $595 million was used for household assistance programs. That included allocations for rental assistance, aid to homeowners, and food assistance grants that were sent to local charities like Feeding Wisconsin Food Bank and the Wisconsin Hunger Task Force.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration reports that more than 1.4 million residents and over 116,000 small businesses have received help and support from the program so far.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.