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Baltimore Mayor Young announces $5.5 million small business initiative to help with coronavirus recovery

Baltimore is creating a $5.5 million fund to help small businesses reopen once the restrictions in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus are lifted.

The bulk of the fund will go toward providing grants of up to $15,000 for small businesses to help them pay rent and payroll, as well as to purchase protective gear for staff.

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A portion of that money will be set aside for those who have been unable to quality for federal coronavirus aid packages. While thousands of Maryland small businesses have benefited from federal relief, others found themselves at a loss when funds ran out.

“Locally, we’ll do our part to help fill the gap,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

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The city will also expand a grant program for Baltimore manufacturers who have begun making protective gear in lieu of their traditional products.

The city’s initiative is supported by the Baltimore Development Corporation, which will help devise strategies for how neighborhood businesses can eventually reopen safely.

These plans could include the need to reconfigure public spaces to maximize outdoor seating and other ways to ensure social distancing remains possible in certain high-traffic areas.

Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he hopes to gradually reopen the economy in phases, classifying businesses as high, medium and low risk. The degree of physical distance in a business, coupled with how much touch it involves for patrons and staff, would be considered in determining risk level.

Young also announced Thursday the creation of a COVID-19 Small Business Task Force, to be co-chaired by City Councilman Eric Costello and Shelonda Stokes, the interim president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. They will be tasked with creating guidelines to help businesses reopen without compromising public health.

Baltimore is drawing $5.5 million from it’s general fund to pay for the initiative, and expects it will be eventually reimbursed by the federal government.

Businesses can begin applying for grants May 4 on BaltimoreTogether.com.

The city is still determining which kinds of businesses will be prioritized for funding. The expect to focus on those located in the city’s Main Street and business district areas.

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