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New grant program will fund innovative post-pandemic workforce solutions

July 28, 2021
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In the latest of a series of initiatives designed to help Wisconsin’s economy rebound from the pandemic, WEDC is joining forces with the Wisconsin Department of Administration and Department of Workforce Development for a new program that will distribute $100 million in grant funds to help businesses find workers and workers connect to better, higher-quality and more family-sustaining jobs.

The Workforce Innovation Grant Program will offer grants of up to $10 million each for at least 10 local and regional collaborations that submit proposals representing innovative thinking and data-driven planning, and that leverage existing infrastructure to connect the dots for post-pandemic workforce solutions.

Grant funds could be used to meet local workforce needs resulting from or exacerbated by the pandemic, such as child care, transit, worker attraction and retention, or housing, and may be used to support initiatives like training, planning, marketing or developing pilot programs that can be applied in other communities.

Funding for this program comes from the $2.5 billion in federal funds provided to Wisconsin under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Details on the program will be available shortly, with applications expected to open in the next few weeks and awards announced in the fall.

Since spring 2020, WEDC has developed and executed multiple programs to help Wisconsin companies weather the pandemic, using both state and federal funds.

Since the application period in late May and early June, the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant Program (a partnership between WEDC and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue) has distributed nearly $300 million to small businesses around the state, with many more potential recipients still being screened for eligibility. The program, which also uses ARPA funds, was open to businesses with annual revenues between $10,000 and $7 million that opened on or before Dec. 31, 2020, and offered grants of $5,000 each.

In addition to the Workforce Innovation and Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grants, other WEDC pandemic recovery initiatives have included:

  • the We’re All In Small Business Grant Program, which distributed $239 million over the course of three grant rounds in 2020;
  • the We’re All Innovating Contest, which awarded a total of more than $3 million to 231 companies across the state with innovative ideas related to pandemic response and recovery;
  • the Small Business 20/20 (SB 20/20) Grant Program, which provided$5 million to help businesses with fewer than 20 employees deal with the impact of COVID-19;
  • the Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant initiative, which issued grants of $2,000 each to 1,000 microbusinesses with ethnically diverse ownership; and
  • the Main Street Marketplace website, which provided a central place for retailers to take their offerings online when the pandemic began.

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