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Harford County has spent about $11.8 million of the nearly $45 million in CARES Act funding it received

Grants for local businesses are still available in Harford as the county looks to draw down its approximately $45 million in federal CARES Act funding, but the deadline to use the funding combined with the possibility of another wave of the coronavirus make the task more complicated.

Harford has spent approximately $11.8 million of the federal dollars — the remainder of which need to be spent by Dec. 31 or it is returned to the federal government, county spokesperson Cindy Mumby said. The money can be spent on coronavirus-related expenses, including grants to businesses, personal protective equipment, and equipment for employees to work from home.

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Critically, it cannot go toward recouping the county’s lost revenues or anything that it budgeted for.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is pacing use of the funds, Mumby said, but the danger lies in saving the money too long and having to return it . In turn, spending it too fast could leave the county unprepared if a resurgence of the coronavirus were to hit, or if it needed the cash quickly. It makes for a difficult Catch-22, she said.

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“Congress may extend [the deadline] or provide some flexibility for what the funding can be used for,” Mumby said. “Those are questions that are still unanswered.”

The single-largest expenditure came from grants paid to small businesses, according to data provided by the county. As of Wednesday, 640 small businesses — defined as those with two to 50 employees — had received $7,500 grants to cover PPE, social distancing expenses, payroll and other operating costs, totaling about $4.8 million.

Harford County also issued $5,000 business owners assistance grants to more than 370 business owners, totaling more than $1.8 million, according to data provided by the county. Fifty-two farms received a grant of $2,500, totaling $130,000.

In total, county government doled out approximately $7.2 million in CARES Act in grant funding to businesses, including the costs of administering the grants, according to the data.

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The county is still accepting applications for its business grants; instructions to apply can be found on the county’s website.

Outside of business grants, the county spent more than $4.6 million in CARES Act funding on coronavirus-related expenses. A majority of that, just over $3 million, was used to purchase PPE such as N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves and face shields.

Nearly $525,000 was spent on public health expenses, such as disinfectants, hand sanitizers, renovations to facilities to allow for social distancing and signage regarding proper distancing, as well as payments to the Harford County Health Department.

Slightly more than $351,000 was spent on medical expenses such as surge ambulances, thermometers and airway kits.

Another $318,000 or so covered administrative costs like hiring workers for curbside payments and processing reimbursements, and about $243,000 was spent on improving telework capabilities for public employees.

The county also paid about $63,000 to house emergency workers who could have been exposed to the virus and spent another $5,000 on food support for vulnerable residents, according to the data.

Glassman has long pushed for the flexibility in using CARES Act funds, hoping they could be used to defray lost revenues. It is unclear how hard Harford County will be hit by the pandemic, but Mumby said county government is expecting losses to tax revenue. Absent help, losses in county revenues could impact services for county residents.

Though the county stands to lose money, those losses are not considered conornavirus-related she said.

“That has a direct impact on our citizens,” Mumby said. “Depending on the severity of the impact, which is still unknown, it could have a significant effect on what we are able to do for our citizens.”

Mumby said it was too early to anticipate the effects of those losses of revenues.

Aegis editor S. Wayne Carter Jr. contributed to this article.

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