By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When coronavirus swept through Milwaukee, it left a struggling economy in its wake. Milwaukee County residents found themselves in need of resources and basic essentials and so much more.
And Milwaukee responded in turn. Parking meters were turned off, the Milwaukee County Transit System temporarily halted fare collection, restaurants were named as essential, testing sites were established and more.
So far, Milwaukee County has spent $40 million on resources related to coronavirus, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said in a press conference earlier this month.
That number could grow to $100 million or more by the end of the year.
According to Urban Milwaukee, that money covered the cost of Personal Protective Equipment, hazard pay, cleaning and disinfection, reconfiguring county operations and re-opening county operations.
When Milwaukee went on lockdown, its revenue services went with it, including money makers such as the Milwaukee County Zoo and local beer gardens. And while these measures were taken for the good of the health of Milwaukee, it also created an economic crisis.
Things changed though when the federal government announced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act also known as the CARES Act. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, this economic relief package would spread about $2 trillion across the country.
Urban Milwaukee reported that Milwaukee County was expected to receive $165 million, but instead it only received $62 million. The rest of it, $103 million in total, went to the state’s $2 billion CARES Act funding.
Milwaukee County officials want it back, but unfortunately the request was denied.
Crowley and County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson released a joint statement regarding the situation.
“We’re frustrated at the decision to reject our request for CARES Act funding that is equitable to the disproportionately high costs Milwaukee County has experienced, both in dollars and lives,” the statement read.
The statement continued that while it may seem fair to the other 71 counties, the decision to not return the money to Milwaukee disregards the fact that Milwaukee County suffered at a disproportionately higher rate compared to other counties.
“Milwaukee County has borne the greatest costs related to the coronavirus pandemic of any Wisconsin county, currently estimated at $450 million, and suffered the greatest loss of life, with 264 deaths, or nearly half of the state’s total, despite making up 1/6 of Wisconsin’s population” stated Crowley and Nicholson.
“Without additional aid that reflects the disproportionately heavy costs incurred by Milwaukee County, our residents – especially people of color – will continue to suffer an unjust burden, and racial disparities in health will continue to get worse,” the statement continued.
Crowley and Nicholson said their plan is to remake the county government with the goal of racial equity in mind. As it strives to be the healthiest county in the state, it will continue to rely on aid from federal allies.
As Milwaukee County continues to sort out issues related to COVID-19, the fact remains that Milwaukee is stronger together.