City Council Expands MERL Funding

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By: 
Cameron Bren

City Council Expands MERL Funding

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Common Council voted to triple the amount of funding for the city’s low interest loan program to assist businesses struggling due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council approved the $200,000 increase in response to a surge in the number of applicants. 

The council also approved an agreement to receive a grant to reimburse expenses for marketing and promotion for businesses related to the pandemic.

The program titled Middleton Economic Relief Loan or MERL was established in collaboration with Middleton Area Development Corporation (MADC). Both the city and MADC have now committed $300,000 to the program. The city’s portion will be covered by a State Trust Fund Loan program.

City Administrator Mike Davis said the number of applications is now up to 20, which equates to about $500,000 in loan requests.

“They are really good businesses that the likelihood payback is good,” Davis said.

The loans would have a four-year amortization at one percent interest.

Alder Mark Sullivan asked why the limit was set at $600,000? Finance Director Bill Burns said the city needs to have a set number for the trust fund application but noted that the city could apply for a second round of funding at a later date.

Burns said the city’s first payment would be made in March 2022 and continue through to 2025. The interest on the trust fund loan would be about 2.5 percent meaning the city would subsidize 1.5 percent or about $13,000.

Sullivan asked if MADC had a set limit. Davis said it is different for MADC because it has enough cash on hand to match the increase and beyond.

The council approved the additional $200,000 in funding unanimously. The council also unanimously approved the application for the state trust fund application requesting $300,000 with a five-year term.

The council also approved an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for a Wisconsin Tourism Relief to Accelerate Vitality and Economic Lift (TRAVEL) Grant in the amount of $162,592.

City attorney Larry Bechler said the travel grant is specific in what it can be used for but in this case, it will be used to reimburse expenses incurred by the Tourism Commission. 

Tourism Director Julie Peterman said the grant will reimburse COVID -19 related marketing and promotion work between March and October.

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