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Small WI Businesses Face Tough Decisions in Trying to Reopen

Gov. Tony Evers says his latest easing of business restrictions amid the pandemic will impact about 14,000 Wisconsin businesses. (Adobe Stock)
Gov. Tony Evers says his latest easing of business restrictions amid the pandemic will impact about 14,000 Wisconsin businesses. (Adobe Stock)
May 13, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced this week that, with certain restrictions in place, retailers can once again open for shopping. But it's a big dilemma for smaller stores as the pandemic continues.

In the latest step to reopen Wisconsin's economy, Evers said up to five customers can be allowed at a time inside standalone or strip-mall-based retailers.

Geri Aglipay, Midwest senior outreach manager for the advocacy group Small Business Majority, said smaller stores might find it harder to simply open up again, especially if they can't afford protective gear for their staffs.

"Many small businesses -- all business in general, but especially small businesses -- given their slim profit margins, may not have budgeted for those additional fixed costs for PPE."

She added that in the Midwest, some have raised concerns about the inconsistency in guidelines between local and state governments. Under the Wisconsin order, masks are recommended but not required in retail shops. Evers has referred to it as a "disciplined turn of the dial" in allowing business owners to safely get back to work.

Aglipay said it's hard for small businesses to decide whether to jeopardize their future by staying closed or risking people's health by opening up again. There's also concern about enforcing proper guidelines "if the customer is finding that there's a business that may not be -- or that they think is not -- complying to safety measures," she said, "or what can a business do to enforce customers wearing masks?"

In issuing the executive order, Evers suggested the state would not be checking up on every business to ensure that they're following all the restrictions. His executive order is online at govdelivery.com.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI