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Harford’s small businesses can start applying Monday for CARES Act grants to cover coronavirus related expenses

Some businesses in Bel Air prepare to open their doors again now that the stay at home orders have been lifted and certain businesses are allowed to open.

Small business owners in Harford County will get their first look at applications for coronavirus relief grants Monday.

Harford County hopes to send checks to businesses in need by June. Small businesses with two to 50 employees can apply for $7,500 grants to cover personal protective equipment, social distancing expenses, payroll and other operating costs, according to a news release from County Executive Barry Glassman’s office. Farmers with 10 or more acres can also apply for a $2,500 grant.

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More guidance on who qualifies for the grants will be posted to the county’s website Monday. The grants will be paid from the county’s share of federal CARES Act funding, which totals approximately $44 million.

The county indicated it would begin accepting applications after Memorial Day, but advised businesses to begin working on their applications earlier. It hopes to distribute most of the checks in June.

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The announcement of the loan program’s particulars comes as Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled part of his plan to begin reopening the state.

On Friday, at 5 p.m., the governor’s stay-at-home order will be lifted, though Marylanders will still be encouraged to work from home and stay indoors if possible. Cloth masks and social distancing are still recommended, as well as avoidance of crowds of 10 or more people. The prohibition on gatherings will not be lifted.

Retail businesses like bookstores, car washes and clothing stores will be permitted to reopen at up to 50% capacity, according to the order, but delivery and curbside pickup will be strongly encouraged where it can be. Manufacturing will also be permitted to resume, and houses of worship can begin offering services again at up to 50% capacity. The order strongly recommends outdoor religious services.

Personal services like barber shops and beauty salons will also be allowed to open at up to 50% capacity, Hogan said, but may only be visited by appointment.

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Under Hogan’s newest guidance, local governments have the flexibility to decide how much they want to reopen with limits set by the governor. Glassman said that Harford County will open as much as it can under the order as other localities have indicated they would defer reopening or only relax some restrictions.

Glassman also signed an executive order temporarily relaxing some parking lot restrictions and allowing businesses to use some space in their outdoor lots for sales, reasoning that the virus can circulate more easily in closed spaces.

Those spaces would still have to comply with social distancing, fire, safety, disability and parking requirements.

“We hope this will expand economic opportunities for our local businesses and their customers,” Glassman said in a prepared statement.

As of Friday, the coronavirus has sickened nearly 37,000 Marylanders and killed almost 1,800. About 1,500 are currently hospitalized around the state.

Harford has 671 total cases, and 28 confirmed deaths, with four more possible deaths from the virus, according to the Maryland Department of Health. The majority of those deaths stem from two nursing homes where the virus has been circulating.

“Nursing home cases at Bel Air Health & Rehabilitation Center and Forest Hill Health & Rehabilitation Center were 36% of our total cases and 64% of deaths, according to recent reports,” Glassman said in the release.

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