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Howard County receives nearly $57 million in CARES Act funding amid coronavirus pandemic

Howard County received nearly $57 million in CARES Act funding from the state of Maryland on Monday, more than two months after the legislation for federal coronavirus relief was signed into law.

About half of the $56.8 million in funding, $28.4 million, was granted to the Howard County Health Department, according to a county news release. The other half was given to Howard County Government; the county government also will have access to at least $9 million of the funds granted to the health department to cover county health-related expenses during the pandemic.

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding that supports health-related costs is set to assist with salaries for emergency management and services dedicated to mitigating and responding to the pandemic; acquisition and distribution of supplies; expenses for public safety measures; communications and enforcement; and disinfection of public areas.

Because of the size of the county, with a population under 500,000, additional projections on how the money was to be spent needed to be submitted and agreed to by the state.

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“Howard County was required to go through a more rigorous process to receive federal relief funding,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “Now that we have received this critical funding, we can focus on quickly distributing funds to those who need it the most. We plan to provide more than $5.7 million in business assistance funding to support our local businesses in response and recovery to COVID-19.”

The business assistance efforts include: the Storefront Retail Assistance Program, providing $2.7 million to locally owned small retailers who have been forced to close because of the state non-essential business order; the Agriculture Assistance Program, providing $800,000 in grant assistance to support local, full-time farms affected by the decreased demand by local restaurants as well as a drastic decline in commodity prices; and the Restaurant Assistance Program, providing $2 million to locally owned restaurants for support for accommodations required to reopen.

Further details on the application process for those business assistance programs will be announced in the coming weeks, according to the release.

The more than $9 million the county is projecting in non-health-related expenses will go to hazard pay for employees performing essential work during the pandemic; technology expenses to improve telework capabilities; care for homeless populations; food delivery to residents; and rental assistance support.

According to the county, more than $9.3 million has been spent on coronavirus response and recovery efforts since March. The county is estimating a revenue loss of $35 million.

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