From restaurant owners to renters, covid relief brings much-needed lifeline

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – The covid relief package passed by Congress is a much-needed lifeline for millions of Americans but some say more needs to be done.

The bill passed with bipartisan support in Congress but that was not the case within Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. Every Republican in the state’s delegation voted against the relief package.

In a statement, Rep. Bryan Steil (R – Janesville) said in a statement, “Speaker Pelosi gave us roughly six hours to read a 5,600 page bill spending trillions of dollars. The bill is far too broad and falls short of providing targeted relief to those who are struggling.”

But Democrats who supported the bill said people in Wisconsin could not wait any longer for relief.

You can complain about process all you want but at the end of the day we voted on a product,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D – Madison) told CBS 58 in an interview. “Plenty of things are wrong about the process but I could vote against process all day and never get anything done. In this case we got something done. We’re providing some support, albeit not enough.”

Pocan said the boost to unemployment benefits begins next week with stimulus checks coming after Christmas, though he cautioned that process could take weeks for some people.

Relief for restaurants

One of the hardest hit industries is food service. Restaurants have closed in unprecedented numbers and those surviving are having to make difficult decisions to stay afloat.

The relief package offers much-needed help.

“This is a really good start,” Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer said in an interview. “There’s a lot in this bill that is particularly help the restaurant industry from the further PPP loans to the fixing some of the misconceptions of the tax deductibility and so on,”

Hillmer hopes both Congress and the state Legislature consider additional help in 2021.

Lifeline for renters

The relief package also adds rental assistance and extends a moratorium on evictions. It’s an issue that has deeply affected the Milwaukee community.

“For now this is welcome news,” Colleen Foley said. Foley is the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, an organization that offers legal help for lower income residents. The pandemic has brought on a spike of need for their help to navigate things like evictions.

“Essentially, June, July and August, we saw unprecedented demand for our services our lawyers were seeing triple the normal caseloads,” Foley said.

Foley said without a moratorium eviction or rental assistance, the effects would be dire with shelters being overwhelmed with people needing shelter. She too says Congress and the state Legislature need to seriously consider more action on the issue that is unlikely to fade in 2021 without more help.

The governor’s take

The covid relief package does help the state’s efforts for vaccine distribution as well as continued testing and contact tracing. Those effects are expected to be felt immediately.

However, the bill lacked financial aid for state and local governments. It’s an issue Governor Tony Evers said he hopes Congress reconsiders.

“The plan is to convince congress to come back in session with a new president and really finish the job in a good way,” Evers said in a media briefing Tuesday.

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