Wisconsin businesses hurt by mild winter could be eligible for disaster relief loans - TAI News
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Small businesses in northern Wisconsin that have struggled this winter because of a lack of snow and ice will now be eligible for up to $2 million in federal emergency relief funds.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin announced this week that they had worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration to make three more northern counties eligible for the federal disaster loan program.

The winter tourism industry in Wisconsin is suffering after the state received very little snow and ice this winter, which has kept snowmobilers, skiers and ice fishers at bay and left many small businesses and Northwoods communities without critical tourism dollars.

There has been 20 to 30 fewer inches of snow across the state this year than in previous years, and 40 to 70 fewer inches in what’s known as the Lake Superior snowbelt, which covers the far-north counties of Ashland, Iron and Vilas, according to Evers’ announcement.

“The lack of snow we’ve experienced so far this winter has had serious economic impacts on folks and businesses, especially in our northern counties, who rely on snow and winter weather to attract customers and be successful,” Evers said.

As a result, businesses and event organizers have had to adjust. Bars and restaurants along snowmobile routes have offered deals to tourists who still decide to visit, and communities are promoting non-snow-related events. The 50th annual American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race scheduled for Feb. 21-25 will still go on, but instead of racing on the usual 31-mile course that connects the communities of Cable and Hayward, skiers will now race around a looped course created with man-made snow and won’t leave Cable.

“In Wisconsin, our snowy winters are not just another season, but also a huge economic driver, particularly in the northern part of the state. This year’s low snowfall has hit many Wisconsin businesses hard, and we need to do more to ensure they get some relief,” Baldwin said.

Some Wisconsin counties are already eligible for the federal disaster loan program under a preexisting disaster designation for drought. Now Evers and Baldwin have worked with the federal government to add additional counties in the Northwoods that have been most affected, including Florence, Marinette and Buffalo counties.

The designation allows businesses that have faced losses due to the drought to access an emergency loan known as an Economic Impact Disaster Loan. Businesses can borrow up to $2 million to cover losses. They will pay zero interest on the loans in the first year, and there’s a 4% cap on interest rates for the rest of the payback period.

Businesses affected by the mild winter that are in eligible counties will be able to apply for assistance under the designation.

Applications are due by staggered deadlines that vary from county to county between April and July. Businesses interested in applying can visit lending.sba.gov to submit applications and can contact the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation with questions about the loan program.

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