CARES Act funding running out, Dane County families and businesses still need help

MADISON, Wis. — When the CARES Act was passed, Dane County was allocated $95 million in funding. Part of the deal was that the money must be spent by the end of the year, and the county is on track to meet that requirement.

But that also means local community programs won’t have any more help from the federal government. And there’s no signs that Congress will agree on a second round of funding by the end of the year.

“We need the federal government to come up and help us at least one more time or we’re going to have more businesses losing their leases and having to go out of business, more people losing their jobs,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

For months Parisi has been saying our area needs more CARES Act funding. He’s sent letters to Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson explaining just how serious the need is.

“There are a lot of real people who are hurting. And those dollars would be a huge help right now.  And without them folks are going to be hurting even more this winter,” said Parisi.

In the last six months, Dane County has spent $10 million helping people stay in their homes. But that money ran out in early September.

“Our experience with eviction prevention dollars showed that there’s a real need out there. Lots of people have either lost their jobs or they’re at reduced hours and they need help just staying in their apartments. We went through $10 million in no time,” said Parisi. “Right now there’s a temporary moratorium on evictions, but that moratorium, when that’s up, people are still going to owe those back dollars.”

Another $6 million helped buy food from local farmers for Second Harvest, benefitting both families in need and struggling farmers.

The $10.8 million to help small businesses has also been spent already. Dane Buy Local helped distribute the money. Executive Director Colin Murray said it helped almost 2,700 businesses, but it wasn’t enough.

“Every day I hear from businesses looking for help, looking for more support,” said Murray. “We’re already losing businesses that are closing every day, some very popular businesses that you wouldn’t expect, but there’s such a huge need out there.”

Murray said 90% of Dane County small businesses need support at the federal level. He said the county is trying its best, but it’s a Band-Aid on the wounds caused by the coronavirus.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said she’s disappointed in Congress’s failure to act.

She said local governments can only do so much.

“In the city of Madison, we are looking at in the 2021 budgets a few layoffs, we’re looking at furloughs, we’ve cut millions of dollars from different city services. None of that would need to happen if we had the federal government on our side in providing relief from the impacts of the coronavirus,” said Rhodes-Conway.