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State street business owners “fed up” after city council rejects recovery program to pay for protest damage

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Some business owners in downtown Madison are fed up after the common council rejected a proposal to help businesses recover from the damage that happened during the recent unrest.

The recovery program would have provided $250,000 for businesses and $500,000 for an equity program designated to support minority entrepreneurs.

Madison Council members rejected the idea (14-6) because they instead want to reconsider investing those funds to help black business owners. Some alders believe State Street already gets too much funding. 

"Downtown is the neighborhood that has received the most resources from the city,” said Alder Rebecca Kemble, District 18. “This is quite literally institutional racism."

The rejection of the proposal and comments made by alders left minority business owners on State Street frustrated. 

“Were not making it and I’m mad because they turned it down,” said Abdul Lababidi, owner of Princess of India, who had his store damaged and looted during a protest on May 31st.

“I thought they would give us a little help to keep us going.” 

Mair Maktabi, who owns Dubai restaurant and is a Syrian immigrant,  testified to council members begging for them to understand the dire need of these recovery funds.

Maktabi said he’s still struggling to pay off $39,000 in damage from protesters and said the debate on where the funds go shouldn’t be an issue about race.

“What about the white community, the black community, small businesses...no…we are all American,” said Maktabi. “Council members are burying the downtown business owners alive.”

For now, the recovery program funds will be put on hold until the council agrees on how to spend it. Meanwhile, businesses will have to wait even longer as they continue to struggle to pay their bills.

“I’m not going to survive and I’m trying really hard right now,” said Lababidi. “My lease is up soon and I’m debating whether or not if I should stay.”

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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