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Carroll County in process of allocating federal, state coronavirus relief aid to restaurants, retail businesses

With COVID-19 case rates rising across Maryland, Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners discussed relief fund efforts through the end of the year at its most recent meeting.

Earlier this year, Carroll received $14.6 million in coronavirus relief funding and must spend the money by Dec. 30. So far, the county has spent $11 million and “has a solid plan for spending the other 3.7 million,” according to county officials.

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More recently, the commissioners authorized the Department of Economic Development to implement two new business assistance grant programs, one specifically for Carroll County small retail businesses and one specifically targeted to Carroll County restaurants, according to a news release from Carroll County government. Both programs began accepting applications Nov. 3.

In this program, Carroll Rebound II, retail will use a $500,000 allocation originating with CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund funding. Carroll County Restaurant Relief will offer $1.2 million from the state’s new program Maryland Strong: Economic Recovery Initiative, according to the release.

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Jack Lyburn, director of economic development, reported to commissioners on Nov. 12 during the commissioners' weekly meeting, that they had received 90 applications from retail businesses for the new CARES funding. Some $84,000 has been committed to the 26 that have been approved.

Restaurateurs have submitted 95 applications for the new state funding. Twenty-five had been approved for about $510,000 thus far, Lyburn said.

According to the county government, the CRF plan that was approved in June, was established to provide “flexible and fluid money” for major essential services throughout Carroll County, including reimbursements, future costs and assistance with reopenings. In addition to being distributed to businesses, county officials said the funding has been used for hazard pay for employees, eviction prevention, technical upgrades throughout the county, nonprofits and volunteer fire departments.

“I just want to be clear here, that in Carroll, every penny is spoken for,” said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, after addressing why larger jurisdictions around the state still have larger sums of funds that must be spent by year’s end.

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“I want to remind everyone that we indeed as a county, took our own money that we had set aside for other projects and put it toward relief funding early in and we’re not holding on to a pocket of money in someone’s desk drawer,” Wantz added.

Each commissioner questioned why more retail businesses were not applying for county aid. Wantz speculated that local businesses do not want to apply for the aid money because they fear it may be taken out of their tax returns later. “One of the of the challenges is, for some of these businesses, is thinking with the ‘no free lunch’ mentality and they are operating from a place where that money may be taken out later on,” said Wantz.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said that some restaurants in the southern part of the county have indicated they do not want more aid.

“Some restaurants are reluctant to take more money because they feel they’ve already taken enough and believe it should go to others and on the other, they’re tired –– tired of asking for money,” said Rothstein.

Wantz proposed allocating leftover funds to nonprofit businesses that are struggling and not generating revenue. Based on the rules regarding the funding, nonprofits do not qualify for the new state aid. But, according to County Administrator Roberta Windham, the nonprofits received funding through Stage 2 of Carroll Rebound as well as through the health department.

Windham also said the Carroll County Health Department has received many requests from local businesses for personal protective equipment through CRF federal funding.

The Board of Commissioners will reconvene on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m.

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