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Carroll County restaurants, hotels eligible for more COVID-19 relief funding

Carroll County is receiving another round of state funding that totals close to $1 million designed to help local restaurants and another to assist hotels and motels that have been negatively affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jack Lyburn, the county’s economic development director, spoke during Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting and presented two relief funds awarded by the state just before the start of 2021. Carroll County Restaurant Relief II is set to award $720,900 of additional funding for establishments in need. The county also gets more than $250,000 for Carroll hotels and motels that generate sales and use tax.

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The commissioners authorized both funds during the meeting.

“We got our New Year’s Eve wish from the state,” Lyburn said. “We received two grants, and we’re ready to go.”

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The restaurant relief fund will be open starting Monday, Jan. 12, at noon, when establishments can apply online at www.carrollbiz.org, until Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. Applicants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

The county fulfilled its goal before the end of 2020 of doling out $500,000 to county businesses in need (there were more than 140 applicants), and wound up giving money to more than 80% of Carroll’s restaurants as well. Lyburn and the commissioners talked in December about anticipation for a second wave of relief, which became a reality.

There were 148 applicants from the previous relief fund, Lyburn said, and 100 of them consisted of places that had nine employees or fewer. Those establishments, which included breweries, wineries, food trucks, and distilleries, were given $3,000 on average through the relief fund. Places with 10 or more employees (48 from Carroll through the previous relief fund) received about $8,000.

Lyburn recommended the same scale this time around, and said he’d come back to the commissioners next month with an update if needed. Lyburn at first said the county wouldn’t release the restaurant relief funds until March as a way to help keep tabs on the number of applicants. But the commissioners argued for the need to get the new funding out as quickly as possible.

“My biggest challenge on this is that the honeymoon season for restaurants over the holiday season is over,” said commissioner Ed Rothstein, the board’s new president. “January is going to be very difficult, and February is going to be very difficult for restaurants in Carroll County.”

Fellow commissioner Dennis Frazier said the first-come, first-served method is better suited for these places in need.

“We can keep the [application] window open until March, but to wait that long to give the money out, I just don’t think that’s a good idea. These people need the money now,” Frazier said. “I think it’s more imperative that these people get the checks in their hands as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, Lyburn said the hotel/motel fund will begin within the next few weeks in partnership with the Carroll County Tourism Office. Carroll has six such businesses that are eligible — Antrim 1844 in Taneytown, Best Western Westminster Hotel, Budget Inn in Mount Airy, Boston Inn in Westminster, Days Inn by Wyndham Westminster, and Scenic View Motel in Finksburg.

Lyburn said the $254,810 grant, received from the Maryland Department of Commerce, will be distributed to the county’s hotels or motels based on a percentage of the taxes each business gave the county in 2020, provided the lodging businesses are in good financial standing with the county.

The maximum amount any of these businesses would receive would be $71,176, Lyburn said. Five of the six hotels or motels are in “great standing,” Lyburn said, and he added that the county will work with the applicants to make sure they’re all compliant.

Bed-and-breakfast businesses are eligible for this grant across the state, Lyburn said, but only if they have more than 10 rooms. None of Carroll’s four established B&B’s fit that mold, he said, and they don’t provide the county with any of the hotel/motel tax.

“We’re geared up to do this, and we’re excited about it,” said Lyburn, who received praise from Rothstein for his department’s help with relief funding.

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“Thank you for all you’re doing,” Rothstein said. “The confidence we have in you and the work you’re doing with these grants, pushing them out, being very responsive to the community, just want to again show our appreciation.”

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