Anne Arundel County officials estimate the county will receive more than $112 million as part of a sweeping pandemic relief package signed into law by President Biden Thursday that includes hundreds of billions in aid to state and local governments. Annapolis is expected to receive $6 million.
Of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, $350 billion would go to states, local governments, territories and tribal governments. The bill was approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives. President Joe Biden signed it into law today.
The county’s share will be used to fund “programs and initiatives to help county residents and businesses who have been affected by the COVID crisis,” said Chris Trumbauer, spokesperson for County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration. “The funds have more flexibility than CARES, so they are also available for other things like water/sewer or broadband infrastructure.”
“We will come up with a funding strategy in the coming weeks.”
Annapolis had been bracing for a $7.4 million budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. The infusion of federal aid could help avoid a range of cost-cutting measures the City Council had been considering, such as furloughs and pay raise freezes, to make up the difference between revenue and expenditures. The council is set to begin budget discussions next month.
Mayor Gavin Buckley has been lobbying hard for local governments, especially those of capital cities, to receive aid since early in the pandemic, he said. Such funding had been absent from the first two stimulus bills passed last year. The city received more than $4.25 million via Anne Arundel County from the CARES Act.
“We felt strongly that as a state capital, in the year of COVID, in the year of George Floyd, that the state capitals are different to other municipalities,” Buckley said. “We have to address a lot of things that the cities that aren’t capitals don’t have to address.”
“We made the case for the city to get some direct funding. I like to think that we played a part in it.”
About $3.9 billion in direct funding will go to the State of Maryland. Another $1.2 billion will reach county governments, and a further $1.1 billion will go to Maryland city and municipal governments, including Annapolis, according to a joint statement by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Maryland Democrats.
“We fought for this bill because it is going to bring real, concrete relief to Maryland and our nation at a time when we need it most. This pandemic is far from over,” Cardin said in a statement.
Annapolis’s share is determined using a formula found in the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which takes into account a city’s population, the extent of poverty in the city and other factors, City Manager David Jarrell said.
States and municipalities have faced deep budget shortfalls and lost 1.3 million jobs since the pandemic began, according to a Washington Post analysis of government data. Maryland saw an 11% reduction in such jobs between December 2019 and December 2020, according to the Post.
Annapolis opted not to fill vacant city jobs in the early months of the pandemic to save money, a strategy expected to save $1 million and helped balance the budget for the current fiscal year.
“This sweeping package also includes critical funds that will go directly to our state and local governments, allowing them to ramp up vaccination efforts and ensure frontline workers stay on the job while providing more resources for the equitable distribution of the vaccine nationwide,” Van Hollen said in the statement released by his office.