The operator of one of the last bricks-and-mortar travel agencies in the area said Tuesday she was pleased to hear of Gov. Tony Evers’ support of her business that could come as part of nearly $2 billion in aid to Wisconsin communities and businesses in response to the economic devastation of Covid-19.
Pat Ziwisky and Chris Ingersoll are co-owners of Jefferson Travel in downtown Watertown, and Ziwisky said they can put the financial aid to good use just paying the rent on their historic East Main Street storefront as her agency endures the pandemic.
“That is good news from the governor’s office. We would welcome any assistance that is provided from these funds,” Ziwisky said.
According to the governor’s office, the Wisconsin travel industry will receive $12 million in assistance, while other, non-health-related businesses will also benefit.
Movie theaters are expected to receive $10 million in grant aid, while live music venues are slated to see $15 million in benefits. The lodging industry is scheduled to be granted $20 million, while cultural organization grants could total $15 million.
The Daily Times attempted to contact the Towne Cinema’s operators about how they would use aid they might receive, but there was no response.
Evers this week also provided an updated accounting of federal funds invested in public health, emergency response efforts, and economic stabilization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His administration announced $131 million in targeted allocations for efforts aimed at addressing healthcare worker shortages and helping create capacity in Wisconsin hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.
Funds were allocated by the Evers Administration from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was made available to Wisconsin through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
To date, federal funds have been invested in emergency response, public health measures, and economic support initiatives for Wisconsin residents, businesses, and communities.
As of Nov. 6, the state expended $621 million and obligated an additional $484 million. An additional $872 million in funds have been committed for distribution by the end of December.
Roughly $22 million remains reserved to ensure the state continues to have the flexibility to respond to emerging needs.
Ziwisky said she and Ingersoll have weathered many storms in their decades in vacation planning. She said their commissions from the airlines disappeared in the 1990s. They were then blind-sided by the terrorism of 9/11 that left many people fearful of flying. She said the economic downturn of 2008 hit the travel industry particularly hard, but called the COVID-19 pandemic, “the worst.”
“Basically we would be using (the governor’s allocation) just to pay our rent,” Ziwisky said, adding the funding could cover her business’s utility bills and other office expenses. “The rising number of COVID cases and the CDC urgent requests to not travel have made our road even steeper to climb.”
Ziwisky said the clientele of her now-rare bricks-and-mortar Jefferson Travel business is loyal, and she believes when its patrons are comfortable about traveling again, business will pick up.
“We have a very loyal clientele that we believe will come back when they are ready to travel,” she said.
Ziwisky said that, in April, when people had hearts on their business’s windows, she and Ingersoll adorned their storefront with small hearts containing pictures of famous places around the world surrounding a large heart that said, “We are here to help when the world reopens.”
“Chris and I would use (this assistance) to help us keep that promise,” she said.