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Wisconsin Assembly passes bill designed to save paper mills

June 22, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill designed to save two shuttered paper mills.

The bill would make available a $50 million loan to a cooperative that wants to buy the shuttered Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and make a $15 million loan for a cooperative working to purchase the paper mill in Park Falls formerly known as Flambeau River Papers.

The money would come from federal coronavirus relief money. The bill came after a year of discussion with state, local and federal officials about how to save the Verso mill, which closed in June 2020 after more than a hundred years of operation. It employed 900 people.

Democrats said they were concerned the federal law may not allow for use of the money for a loan to cooperatives to purchase the mills. But Republican bill sponsor, Rep. Scott Krug, of Nekoosa, said federal guidance clearly allows for the money to be used to purchase them.

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Gov. Tony Evers expressed disappointment that a Democratic-backed amendment to the bill was rejected. But he didn’t say whether rejection of that amendment would lead to him not signing the bill.

Supporters of the bill said it was needed to both save the mills and help the state’s paper industry hurt when they shut down.

The measure passed on a bipartisan 63-35 vote and now heads to the Senate.