The city of Baltimore and Maryland’s largest counties say they are reeling from the budgetary effects of the coronavirus pandemic and are urging increased federal aid.
“We know all of you are experiencing incredible pressure on your budgets,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said during a conference call Monday that included Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the county executives of Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties, all Democrats.
Fellow Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said Congress must prioritize assistance to state and local governments in the next congressional relief package.
Before the pandemic hit, Baltimore forecast a $26.4 million surplus in its general fund. With the coronavirus slowing economic activity to a crawl, the city faces a deficit of tens of millions of dollars in the fiscal year, Young said on the call.
“And I really don’t even want to tell you what we’re facing next year,” he added.
He said Maryland’s elected officials are “a team and we’re not going to be divided.”
The call also included Baltimore Democrat Kweisi Mfume, who is being sworn in Tuesday as the state’s newest congressman; and U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat.
An economic relief package from Washington in late March established a $150 billion fund for state, territorial, tribal and local governments.
Maryland’s share was about $2.3 billion.
The five largest local governments (with a population in excess of 500,000) were eligible to receive direct distributions totaling about $691 million, according to the state. Those governments were Baltimore City and Baltimore County, as well as the counties of Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George’s. Smaller local governments were to receive their funding from the state’s allocation.
The money was to be used for items — such as additional staffing hours and medical supplies — related to the pandemic.
The officials on Monday’s call said they hoped any new money could be used to reimburse revenue losses due to declining spending by residents and tourists.