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Maryland restaurants will receive $50 million in state coronavirus relief money, but it will be up to counties to distribute

Maryland officials released details Thursday on how much state aid will be given to restaurants in each jurisdiction as they continue to grapple with devastating financial losses from the coronavirus. But it’s not clear when restaurant owners in most of the state will be able to access the money.

Funds for restaurants, artists, arts organizations, entertainment venues and other businesses are part of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest, $250 million economic relief package, drawn from Maryland’s Rainy Day Fund to help businesses struggling due to the coronavirus.

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Of that total, $50 million will be available to restaurant owners for “rent, payroll, and job training; equipment purchases to expand outdoor dining (including tents, heaters, and carts); infrastructure improvements (such as HVAC upgrades and technology for carryout and delivery); personal protective equipment (PPE) and disposable containers and utensils; and more,” the commerce department said.

The money will be distributed “based on the number of restaurant establishments" in each jurisdiction, according to the state. Montgomery County is expected to receive the most ($8.2 million); followed by Baltimore County ($7.1 million); Baltimore City ($6.6 million); Prince George’s County ($6.1 million); and Anne Arundel County ($5 million).

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But many restaurants must wait even to apply for the aid, because it is being distributed through their local governments, most of which have not yet stood up their own relief programs, a state commerce department spokeswoman said Thursday.

Only Washington, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties have launched their local restaurant relief programs, said Amanda Winters, the commerce department spokeswoman.

Winters did not say when the state expects the other 21 jurisdictions to launch their relief programs. Links to apply for each jurisdiction’s program, once they’re created, will be added to the state’s coronavirus business resources page, she said.

“It is Gov. Hogan’s intent to have all funding distributed by Dec. 31," Winters said in an email. “While this does not provide a timeframe for the counties launching their independent programs, we anticipate they will each be set up soon given the tight turnaround time.”

The money “will provide much needed assistance to numerous small businesses that are working to reopen and adapt to the current climate throughout Maryland,” Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz said in a statement. “We are hopeful that these new opportunities provide extra financial relief, and we are grateful to our county partners for helping us reach those businesses that are truly in need.”

The aid package also includes $3 million for emergency grant funding through the Maryland State Arts Council. Independent artists, arts organizations, county arts agencies and Arts & Entertainment District management entities that have “experienced losses because of programming, operations, and events that have been modified or canceled” have until Nov. 13 to apply for the grants.

The state also will provide $2 million in relief funding to destination marketing organizations “for marketing purposes, to help drive visitors to local venues and stores,” the commerce department said. Additional information on how to apply expected to be provided by those organizations “early this month,” the announcement said.

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