xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Baltimore Council President Scott calls for $25M in rainy day funds to be used on coronavirus response

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott called for the city to use $25 million from its rainy day fund to support small businesses, laid-off workers and homeless people as they cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s fund is “meant for emergencies like this one,” Scott said. “When you’re in a crisis like this, you have to consider everything.”

Advertisement

Scott rolled out a 17-page policy paper for how he proposes the city support residents as they grapple with the long-term impacts of COVID-19. He is running for mayor in a crowded Democratic primary election that was postponed to June 2 because of safety concerns.

“This is a public health emergency unlike we’ve ever seen,” he said during a virtual press conference. “This document lays the groundwork for a successful and equitable recovery for Baltimore.”

Advertisement

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the administration is in talks with the finance department about how to best use city resources to blunt the economic blow, and that nothing is off the table.

Baltimore officials expect to end the fiscal year with a $42.3 million deficit as the virus stifles economic activity. They are also forecasting that the city will bring in about $100 million less in revenue than anticipated for the fiscal year that begins in July.

The finance department is in the process of reworking the budget to account for economic turmoil sparked by the coronavirus. Officials are also monitoring federal coronavirus relief legislation to determine what emergency resources the city can unlock.

“We have to be very judicious in the use of the rainy day fund,” finance director Henry Raymond said during a Tuesday news conference. “In the coming days, we’ll make those decisions about what potential expenses should be used against the rainy day fund.”

Young said during the news conference that the City Council is making a slew of requests without having a sense of what the budget will look like. During their meeting Monday, the council passed a resolution with several recommendations for the city’s response.

“Our budget don’t look good in this pandemic,” Young said. “We have to be reasonable and not political about this.”

Scott is proposing the city use $3 million from the rainy day fund to help people experiencing homelessness secure safe spaces to self-quarantine.

Young’s office says it has started to move 150 “vulnerable, but healthy, individuals” over the age of 62 from its emergency shelters to motels, but homeless advocates say it could take five times as many rooms to adequately address the problem.

The council president’s policy proposal also calls for $10 million from the rainy day fund to create a small business loan fund and $4 million support nonprofits and cultural centers. And he is asking for $8 million to be used on workforce development to help the thousands of employees who have been laid off.

State lawmakers last month passed an emergency bill that allows Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to take up to $50 million out of the state’s rainy day fund to respond to coronavirus.

City officials are also in discussions about whether they can use the Children and Youth Fund to meet the immediate needs of young people during the crisis, specifically food insecurity and a lack of technology necessary for online school.

The youth fund, authorized by voters in 2016, sets aside a portion of the city’s budget each year to provide grants to grassroots organizations in the city working with children.

Advertisement

“I believe in its mission of supporting small, grassroots nonprofits,” Scott wrote. “But its mission can and should be adapted to meet the present need: providing meals for youth, obtaining laptops and tablets to aid young people with digital learning, and support non-profit organizations that directly serve youth during this public health emergency.”

Davis said the administration has been in talks with the finance and law departments about how to potentially use money from the youth fund to help children impacted by school closures, while also “not jeopardizing the integrity of the fund.”

He recalled that when the fund was first created, supporters decided “it had to be nimble enough to be responsive to the need of the day.”

The 2021 budget proposal includes $3.5 million in additional funding for the Children and Youth Fund.

Political analysts say the coronavirus pandemic will test current elected officials who are running for office, while presenting other candidates the chance to argue why they’re the right person to lead the city through a crisis.

Former state Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah called Scott’s proposal “woefully inadequate," with his suggestion to use $25 million from the rainy day fund representing just a “drop in the bucket."

He said that his campaign would be putting out a comprehensive coronavirus response plan within the next week.

Also running in the Democratic primary are former Mayor Sheila Dixon, former Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith and former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement