Carroll County Government sent a $19.7 million proposal to the state for coronavirus relief funding, most of which would address ways to help residents.
Of the $2.3 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, established under the federal CARES Act and allocated to state and local governments in Maryland, Carroll County’s portion is $29.3 million, according to county government. The state has awarded half of the county’s share, to be withdrawn on a reimbursable basis through Carroll County Health Department.
To get the other half, the county had to draft a proposal.
Counties with populations less than 500,000 were asked by the state to create a coronavirus relief fund plan outlining the ways in which the funding would be used.
Counties with a population of more than 500,000, according to guidance released from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, could apply directly to the treasury for the funds, but counties below that threshold must apply through the states. There are five jurisdictions in Maryland with more than 500,000 residents: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County. Carroll County’s population is about 168,400 people, according to 2019 Census data.
Commissioners expressed frustration over the smaller counties being treated differently at the April 30 commissioners meeting, when they approved submitting the draft relief plan.
"Carroll County and all the other counties are just as important as the large counties out here,” said Richard Weaver, R-District 2.
Although about $14.6 million remains for Carroll to request, it has put forth a proposal that is $5.1 million greater, totaling approximately $19.7 million. Winebrenner said the county wanted to provide a variety of strategies and projects to the state in the hope of securing funding.
“As we do not know what items will be approved and to what extent, we went with a strategy to provide a larger list in hopes we will get all the funding," Winebrenner wrote in an email. "If all categories are accepted, a local multi-agency team will evaluate the plan and make decisions on which projects move forward.”
Winebrenner noted the county expects changes to the plan as the health crisis evolves.
Many items in the plan might seem like obvious requests to make during a pandemic: funding for personal protective equipment, Plexiglass barriers, cleaning supplies, self-check in kiosks, public awareness, sanitizer stations, and more.
There is also a request for a COVID-19 safety officer at $100,000. This would be a contractual position, intended to exist through December, according to Winebrenner.
It is unknown when the state will respond to the county’s relief plan, according to county staff. Some key takeaways from the plan follow.
Business ‘rebound’ proposed
Carroll’s plan requests $4 million for a business revitalization program titled, Carroll Rebound, which would focus on locally owned and operated private sector businesses. The county proposes to use $3.3 million for $5,000 grants devoted to various industries:
- $1M for service, technology and manufacturing businesses.
- $875,000 for restaurants.
- $875,000 for Main Street retail shops.
- $300,000 for Carroll nonprofits.
- $250,000 for tourism-related venues including hotels and agritourism.
The county proposes spending $700,000 to hire 20 industry specialists to provide business consultations. Assistance would be provided to companies to address information technology, marketing, virtual service delivery, employee training, retail online sales, and other business needs identified by the business owner, the plan states.
Carroll Rebound would focus on businesses with less than 100 employees, and no publicly traded companies or franchises would be included, the plan reads.
County requests $4.8M for banked leave
Nearly 350 county commissioner employees are getting time-and-a-half administrative leave for performing essential, or what the county calls “required” work.
Employees performing “preferred” work are getting one hour of banked leave for every hour worked.
Carroll County Government is requesting relief funding to compensate employees earning leave as hazard pay, according to the plan. The cost per two-week pay period is approximately $1.2 million, and the county is asking for funding to cover four pay periods.
Funding sought for fire departments
The pandemic threatens volunteer fire companies as they are forced to cancel summer carnivals and other fundraising events.
The county is seeking approximately $849,000 in relief funding to assist the 14 companies.
“When much of the world has slowed down with new teleworking models, our county depends on our first responders now, more than ever to respond to assist residents in need,” the plan reads. “The [volunteer fire departments] are struggling to maintain their normal operations and face significant burdens without fundraising. Compensating for this interruption to their business model is a priority for the county and critical to maintaining the county’s emergency services system.”
The county’s proposal is based on the estimated loss of the fire departments, which ranges from $19,641 to $156,350, with an average of $60,670, according to the plan. The county’s request is equivalent to this loss.
Physical changes planned
The county hopes to renovate the lobby of the county office building to make it safer and add work stations to emergency communications centers.
Carroll is seeking $1.4 million for its emergency communications center and approximately $1.2 million for the alternate emergency communications center, the plan shows. The proposal calls for four more consoles/work stations at the primary center and six at the alternate center to provide call surge capacity.
At the alternate center, building modifications are requested to allow for the additional consoles. The plan also proposes improving facilities, including expanding the kitchenette and converting an existing bathroom into a shower and change room.
“The need to continuously conduct operations in the [alternate center] over an extended period during the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light several deficiencies associated with that facility,” the plan states.
Giving employees the ability to shower and change at the alternate center would help minimize the potential for cross-contamination/transmission of COVID-19, according to the plan.
To make the county’s main office building safer, the plan proposes adding new desks for security and reception to encourage separation from the public, and closing the lobby entrances to departments of human resources and economic development. New entrances to these departments would be established elsewhere.