Analysis: Wisconsin lags for aid spending, prioritizes small business

Although federal pandemic relief funds have been streaming into Wisconsin since 2020, the combined aid to Wisconsin state and local governments ranks in the bottom 10 states when measured as a share of annual spending, according to a new analysis from Wisconsin Policy Forum. Wisconsin still has substantial funding left and is prioritizing small businesses over funds for state budget gaps, unemployment programs, or water infrastructure even though state government provided more support for small businesses than any other state to help recover from the pandemic. The spending included $303.3 million to small businesses through the Wisconsin Tomorrow grants, $222.8 million through the We’re All In grants to small businesses, $40.2 million to restaurants, $100.1 million for farms, and $92.5 million to hotels and other lodging businesses.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved in March 2021, state and local governments in Wisconsin were awarded $4.86 billion in fiscal recovery funds, which equates to 8.7% of annual state and local spending. Wisconsin ranks 43rd nationally in ARPA funds received as a share of direct general expenditures, the federal data show. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remained lower than the national average both before and during the pandemic. The state also has a record budget surplus and has yet to spend a significant share of the aid received through ARPA.