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How is Baltimore allocating its $103 million in federal coronavirus relief funding?

Baltimore has allocated the largest chunk of its federal coronavirus relief funding for eviction prevention programs, according to a breakdown provided by the city. In this June 5, 2020, photo, Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young talks about COVID-19.
Baltimore has allocated the largest chunk of its federal coronavirus relief funding for eviction prevention programs, according to a breakdown provided by the city. In this June 5, 2020, photo, Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young talks about COVID-19. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore has allocated the largest chunk of its federal coronavirus relief funding for eviction prevention programs, according to a breakdown provided by the city.

Roughly a fifth of the city’s $103 million disbursement is set aside for efforts to keep people in their homes, such as providing payments to landlords on behalf of tenants who have fallen behind on rent.

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The city also is dedicating millions of dollars to paying for contact tracing, buying protective gear to stockpile and helping small businesses weather the economic turmoil brought on by restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — in late March. It set guidelines for what cities could get federal reimbursement for, and covers COVID-related expenses through the end of this year.

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The city is working with accounting giant Ernst & Young to help it navigate evolving federal regulations. It’s set aside $1 million of Baltimore’s CARES allocation to pay the firm for its consulting services.

City officials have expressed some frustration they don’t have more flexibility with the funds. The city can’t, for example, use them to backfill shortfalls in local government revenue.

Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced three more programs Wednesday that the city will support with federal relief money.

Child care providers will be eligible for grants from a $4 million fund aimed at keeping their programs open. Licensed centers can apply for up to $20,000 to pay for payroll, protective gear, rent and other critical costs.

“Child care centers hold an often overlooked but pivotal role in our local economy, and as we move to reopen the economy, support to ensure their operations is vital,” Young said.

Another $5 million will go to a nonprofit relief fund that will provide up to $75,000 in grants to groups that incurred, or will bear, COVID-related expenses between March and December.

The city also will award a $5 million grant to Visit Baltimore to help the tourism industry rebound. A “safe travel” campaign will start in November to encourage people to visit the city.

“I’m confident this new effort will put Baltimore back on the map,” Young said.

Baltimore is dedicating a significant portion of its CARES allocation to pay for required matching funds needed to unlock a separate pot of federal disaster relief money.

Roughly $4 million is set aside to pay for unoccupied hotel rooms. The city is renting out the Lord Baltimore hotel so that people who are sick — or at risk of becoming sick — with COVID-19 have a place to live if they’re unable to isolate at home. While not every room is being used, the city leased the entire hotel because it doesn’t want healthy visitors staying where people are isolating themselves.

Roughly $22 million is not yet allocated, said Daniel Ramos, the city’s deputy chief of staff for operations. It will be used wherever the city determines need is greatest. He said city officials would figure out uses for all the funds by the Dec. 30 deadline.

“If the demand increases,” Ramos said, “we want to be able to flow to the work."

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