MADISON – None of the more than $40 million in federal help promised by President Donald Trump when he visited Kenosha earlier this month can actually be used to rebuild the community, according to Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
And all but $1 million was already coming to the state, regardless of the damage done during protests that followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer, the officials wrote Trump.
During an event in Kenosha on Sept. 1 with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and Homeland Security Director Chad Wolf, Trump announced his administration was dedicating more than $40 million to Wisconsin to rebuild from the unrest.
“Today’s grant money will help to bolster community-based crime-fighting initiatives and provide much needed support to victims affected by the recent violence,” Barr said in a statement included in the U.S. Department of Justice announcement that day.
That money came on top of $4 million Trump said would be dedicated to Kenosha businesses that experienced damage, and more money to prosecute crimes.
But Baldwin and Evers wrote Thursday in a letter to the president that the $4 million for small businesses was already earmarked by the federal relief bill known as the CARES Act for coronavirus pandemic-related losses, and can’t be used for other purposes.
“It cannot be used for damages tied to the unrest,” Baldwin and Evers wrote.
Of the remaining federal funding allocated for Wisconsin, according to Baldwin’s office:
- $30.6 million is for the state’s crime victims fund in fiscal 2020, grants announced in April.
- $10.5 million comes from U.S. Department of Justice grants announced earlier this year to pay for costs associated with implementing body cameras, drug treatment, prosecutions, reducing violent crime, Operation Legend, and other programs.
- $1 million in new public safety funding has been allocated for the City of Kenosha, in a joint application with Kenosha County, for expenses incurred during the period of civil unrest. This funding is new but private businesses cannot use it to rebuild.
Kenosha County officials estimate the destruction to buildings and businesses in the wake of Blake’s shooting could top $50 million. The state’s top Democratic officials are asking Trump to dedicate funding specifically to respond to that need.
Kenosha County Supervisor Terry Rose said at a recent meeting that 100 businesses were damaged and 40 may be out of business permanently as a result of the unrest.
“We welcome your commitments, but are dismayed that the funding you announced in Kenosha will not be sufficient to rebuild and heal the Kenosha community,” Evers and Baldwin wrote to Trump — tellingly, the same day the president was returning to Wisconsin to campaign for reelection.
A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. A spokesman for Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson also did not respond to questions about whether Johnson agreed with the letter.
Democratic Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul suggested the state Department of Justice was seeking clarification.
“It has been more than 2 weeks since President Trump made the announcement of additional funds, and we still don’t have any new information,” Kaul said in a statement. “The people of Kenosha need resources, not empty promises. The Trump administration should promptly make clear whether the federal government is in fact providing these additional resources to Kenosha.”
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