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Mary Miller: Baltimore must do a better job of accessing federal disaster aid | READER COMMENTARY

Mary Miller, one of the Baltimore City mayoral candidates in the Democratic primary, worked at T. Rowe Price for 26 years and served in the Obama adminstration. Feb. 13, 2020
Mary Miller, one of the Baltimore City mayoral candidates in the Democratic primary, worked at T. Rowe Price for 26 years and served in the Obama adminstration. Feb. 13, 2020 (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore is in the middle of a full-blown health and economic crisis that is taking a terrible toll on our city. The federal government is coming to the rescue with a broad menu of assistance that will require sharp attention from the city and partnership with the state to access.

Before the city discusses furloughs and budget cuts (“Baltimore unions told there could be pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs because of coronavirus budget shortfall,” April 10), it should take a hard look at what assistance is on the table. The federal CARES legislation passed in late March includes $150 billion for state and local governments. Maryland is likely to receive over $2 billion and Baltimore at least $100 million. These funds are intended to offset the loss of revenue and spending associated with responding to COVID-19.

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Last week, the Federal Reserve announced an additional $2.3 trillion aid package that includes $500 billion in a new Municipal Liquidity Facility. This aid allows a city like Baltimore to raise short-term funds through the state to help manage cash flow problems for up to two years. It includes managing the impact of delayed income tax revenues, reductions in tax collections, and unplanned expenses. This would be an excellent resource for the city to consider rather than across-the-board budget cuts. This assistance is available until September 30.

It is taking time for federal dollars to reach people and businesses who need it the most. It’s why I’ve been advocating for the city to use its rainy day funds to bridge the gap until federal aid arrives. We should not permanently deplete these hard earned reserves, but use them to help get us through this difficult time, keeping small businesses and non-profits alive to protect Baltimore’s jobs and tax base.

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We will undoubtedly need to make some hard choices in future budgets when this public health crisis passes, but right now, we should be focused on accessing federal assistance to help plug the holes. Let’s get to work right away.

Mary Miller, Baltimore

The writer is a Democratic candidate for mayor of Baltimore.

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