Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. announced new funding Monday for public schools and restaurants as coronavirus cases rise in Baltimore County and across Maryland.
The county will be committing $11.5 million in CARES Act funding to provide supplies directly to Baltimore County Public School principals to help them prepare for eventual reopening, Olszewski said. The county will help schools secure and distribute personal protective equipment, cleaning and sanitizing products, air purifiers, and other supplies needed to ensure buildings are safe for students, educators and staff.
Principals will be able to acquire supplies directly from the county, up to $100 worth per student, according to the county. The county will be coordinating directly with district principals this week on orders and requests for safety supplies.
Olszewski, a former teacher, said the county is doing “everything we can to make sure our school buildings are prepared for the eventual safe return to in-person instruction.”
Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County schools, said in a statement that the funding will help keep “Baltimore County’s children, families, and educators well-protected as we move towards the eventual re-opening of our schools.”
“[Baltimore County Public Schools] has always enjoyed tremendous support from county leaders, and today’s allocation for our schools is an illustration of that support and an acknowledgement that, as together we face this pandemic, we are joined in common cause," Herndon said in a statement.
Coronavirus cases are rising in Maryland, where the state’s positivity rate has climbed above 5% for the first time since June. As of Monday, Maryland has seen six consecutive days of more 1,000 new cases per day.
In Baltimore County, the rate of cases has increased by 90% from Oct. 23 to Nov. 7, and the county’s positivity rate also has risen, Olszewski said. Hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month, he said.
Although Baltimore City is tightening coronavirus-related restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings, Olszewski has not enacted new rules for now.
“In light of our collective crisis, the truth of the matter is if residents don’t take this spike seriously, we must consider enacting new restrictions on gathering here in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said. “While local efforts and a patchwork approach are not as effective as statewide solutions, doing nothing no longer becomes an option if our COVID numbers continue to accelerate.”
Olszewski also announced plans to complement Baltimore County’s existing restaurant grants using additional funds provided by the state. The county will distribute restaurant grants in two phases.
In the first phase, establishments that already have received grants through the county — as much as $15,000 — will receive an additional $15,000 state match to reimburse them for certain coronavirus-related expenses. The restaurants will be contacted directly by the county in the coming days.
The second phase will make grants of up to $30,000 available for restaurants that have not yet received prior grant funding from the county. Restaurants can begin applying for these grants Nov. 16.
Lisa Troia Martin, who runs Cafe Troia in Towson, said Olszewski’s assistance “is greatly appreciated” by businesses trying to stay afloat during the pandemic. Cafe Troia was among the handful of restaurants awarded funding in the first round of grants, she said.
Cafe Troia was “very health and cleanliness-oriented pre-pandemic,” Martin said, but now the restaurant also focuses on wearing masks and maintaining physical distance among everyone.
“It’s been a tough year for everybody and I know a lot of smaller businesses are struggling,” she said. “It’s very hard, so any help we can get is always appreciated.”
Applications for the restaurant and food service grants will be available on the county’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development webpage.
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.