'Scrambling to make rent:' MKE businesses launch support platform amid coronavirus closures

MILWAUKEE -- New limitations were placed on Wisconsin child care facilities Wednesday, March 18 as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state topped 100, including a children's hospital doctor, and policymakers scrambled to find emergency help for displaced workers and struggling businesses.

Evers, a Democrat, was to speak with Republican legislative leaders about his plan for a far-reaching emergency package of legislation to help those struggling with the outbreak. Evers has said he wants the Legislature to remove a one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits, which the Legislature rejected just last year. Evers was expected to issue an executive order speeding up unemployment benefits for those who have lost a job due to the outbreak.

Jesus Nanez

He also submitted a request to the U.S. Small Business Administration for disaster loans of up to $2 million for each qualifying small business and private nonprofit organization that has been hit hard by the pandemic. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation board on Tuesday approved $5 million to pay for grants of up to $20,000 for businesses with fewer than 20 employees to cover rent and payroll expenses related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

FOX6 News on Wednesday spoke with emotional small business owners -- doing everything possible to stay alive through the shutdown. They can't afford to work from home, and there's no business model for what they're going through. They need help now.

Steph Davis

"If you're not strong and really positive, this can make you want to crawl into a hole," said Jesus Nanez, co-owner of The Farmhouse Paint & Sip in Milwaukee.

"I'm scrambling for my team right now," said Steph Davis, owner of The Waxwing in Milwaukee. "I'm scrambling...I'm sorry...to make rent. This has been a gamble for us, you know? Starting your own business is a chance anyway, and then, to have something completely out of our control throw us all."

Governor Tony Evers on Tuesday announced a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 -- ordering bars and restaurants to shut down except for carryout or delivery -- impacting businesses.

The Farmhouse Paint & Sip

"It seems everybody needs something to do at home right now," said Nanez. "So we're doing Curbside Crafts: Pick Up and Paint is the name of our new arm of business."

You can select an activity, add the needed items to your cart, and pick them up at the drive-thru.

Nanez said Wednesday his team was working to adapt and stay afloat, using social media for live art tutorials. He urged state leaders to act before it's too late.

Geoff Hoen

"We need a streamlined loan process," said Nanez. "We need to make sure the funds are getting to small businesses now," said Nanez.

On Milwaukee's east side, shop owners rallied, selling shirts reading, "Stay Home Milwaukee," and other items as a collective group as part of a movement --MKEFundOrg.

"We just celebrated our one-year anniversary on Sunday, and now, we're closing our doors," said Geoff Hoen, owner of Beard MKE.

"I encourage local businesses to follow us on Instagram at MKEFundOrg," said Davies, owner of The Waxwing.

Business owners noted plans to split profits -- encouraging support from the community.

"Really, gift cards are huge for us because they mean cashflow now," said Davies.

"Any small business that's going through this right now is a superhero," said Nanez. "You are balancing so much."

Support these local businesses