Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Thursday announced the county’s community engagement plan for using the $63.2 million in federal funding allocated to it by the American Rescue Plan to address immediate and long-term challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
During a news conference at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, Ball said half of the American Rescue Plan funding would be available during this fiscal year.
“We are confident the use of American Rescue Plan funding will set Howard County on a path to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before,” Ball said. “This funding is an investment, an investment in our future and a reminder that hope is on the horizon and that together, we will get through this.”
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11 in order to provide support to state and local governments in responding to the effects of COVID-19; Maryland received almost $12 billion.
Immediate county issues that will be addressed by the funding include allocating $5 million in hazard pay for county employees who “could not work their full-time jobs remotely … during the height of the pandemic,” Ball said.
The county’s police body-worn camera program will receive roughly $1.6 million on Oct. 5, the day after the Howard County Council is set to vote on a budget amendment to release county funds from contingency to support the program, Ball said, and approximately $2 million in funding will be used to assist struggling homeowners to prevent foreclosures and remain in their homes.
“Since April of 2021, the department has been providing foreclosure assistance for our homeowners impacted by the pandemic,” said Kelly Cimino, director of the Department of Housing and Community Development. “Homeowners that have fallen behind on their mortgage, condominium fees or homeowner association fees after March of 2022, can apply directly to the department for grant funds to bring those accounts current. Homeowners with household incomes up to 80% of the county’s area mean income are eligible to apply.”
The county’s plan for the remaining funding includes providing services to communities affected by COVID-19, addressing the negative impacts of the pandemic experienced by residents and business, supporting front-line workers and improving county infrastructure gaps, including water, sewer and broadband, Ball said.
“This approach ensures our jurisdiction will continue to meet the public health demands of the pandemic, such as providing vaccinations, testing [personal protective equipment] and other items needed and providing secure working environments for our employees to continue serving our community,” he said.
“We all know that counties like Howard County, especially coming out of COVID, have significant needs and there’s a lot of competing pressures on those needs,” Ulman said. “It is more important than ever to have community engagement and a thoughtful approach to think about how we invest these funds in such a unique time.”
Ball encouraged all residents to complete a new community survey on Howard County’s American Rescue Plan at howardcountymd.gov/ARP.
“It is more important than ever that our residents and businesses have a chance to be actively engaged in the process,” Ball said. “We need this to make this plan a success for all.”
The second half of the county’s American Rescue Plan funding will arrive a year after the first. The county has until Dec. 31, 2024, to spend all of the funds.
Other planned community engagement events include a public American Rescue Plan virtual hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 29, stakeholder engagement meetings in October and a presentation to the County Council on Nov. 3.