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Franchot: For Maryland small businesses, ‘rainy’ days are here | READER COMMENTARY

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat running to be the state's next governor, wants Maryland to tap its reserve funds to support for small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat running to be the state's next governor, wants Maryland to tap its reserve funds to support for small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For months, I have urged Gov. Larry Hogan to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund of more than $1 billion to help Marylanders who are struggling (”Maryland weathering coronavirus recession on the backs of low-income workers, state economists say,” Dec. 11). Using the Rainy Day Fund could help prevent evictions and foreclosures and provide cash assistance for basic necessities until a second federal government stimulus package passes. Tapping into these resources along with half-billion-dollar revenue fund balance and the remaining CARES Act federal dollars would ensure families and small businesses survive the long, cold winter.

While our recent December Board of Revenue Estimates report projects Maryland’s economy being healthier than expected, it highlights how our lowest wage earners and small businesses continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. Our small businesses, unemployed citizens and working families, especially in our minority communities, need financial assistance now. Our Latino and African-American communities and women who disproportionately work in industries suffering the most are bearing the brunt of this pandemic not only with their health, but also with their lack of wealth. Disproportionately more minorities are dying from COVID-19 and losing their jobs.

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Our data shows that just during the second quarter of 2020, when compared to the same time period in 2019, big businesses — measured by sales tax that represent our top 0.1% or just 61 businesses — are reporting an increase of 32% in sales.

Our smaller businesses — or 99.1% of our state’s businesses — are seeing drops in receipts of about 11% on average. In fact, also during this same time period, the state of Maryland lost 11,634 sales tax accounts.

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While big box stores and Amazon thrive, we’re seeing “closed” signs as we drive down the Main Streets of our towns and communities. It’s grossly unfair for small business owners who are unable to wield the resources of bigger corporations.

Maryland has more than 170,000 small businesses and we estimate about 30,000 have either closed or will close their doors forever through no fault of their own due to the pandemic’s toll. It’s expected that 10,000 restaurants nationwide will close permanently by year’s end.

With the General Assembly opening Jan. 13, I will continue to push state legislators and the governor for more help for Marylanders. We can continue to keep talking about it or we can start putting our rhetoric into action. It’s time to use the Rainy Day Fund. For Marylanders, it’s not only raining, it’s pouring. Maryland’s families and businesses need cover.

Peter Franchot, Annapolis

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The writer is comptroller of Maryland.

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