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Maryland will soon get roughly $3.7B in federal coronavirus relief, budget official says

Maryland is expecting to receive about $3.7 billion in federal relief “within the next week or so,” a state budget official said Thursday during the first meeting of a state work group on coronavirus pandemic-related spending.

Marc Nicole, who is Gov. Larry Hogan’s deputy budget secretary, outlined more than $62 billion in overall federal and state pandemic relief funds during the meeting.

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Comptroller Peter Franchot asked Nicole whether funds would be disbursed in lump sums or in segments. Nicole said Maryland received last year’s coronavirus relief funds in one payment. Nicole said the state is preparing its financial systems to receive the $3.7 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funds at once as well.

Nicole said guidance from last week on the disbursal of the federal aid said that states with unemployment rates more than 2% higher than when the pandemic started would be able to receive the money all at once. Maryland’s unemployment rate was about 3.5% before the pandemic, and it is now about 6%.

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“I expect that we will be getting a $3.7 billion wire transfer, I’m hoping, within the next week or so,” Nicole said.

In March, Hogan, a Republican, and the presiding officers of the General Assembly announced an agreement on how to spend those funds.

It includes using $1.1 billion to stabilize the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. An additional $800 million will support existing pandemic relief, and $600 million will support school reopening. The plan calls for spending $500 million on transportation service and infrastructure, as well as $300 million for broadband investment.

The federal government provided Maryland and local jurisdictions with almost $24 billion in grant funding for education, relief for physicians and child care providers, COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, mortgage and rent assistance programs.

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“This unprecedented infusion of federal aid was critical in staving off an economic calamity and was a lifeline to millions of Marylanders who found themselves out of a job, on the verge of losing their homes, and struggling to put food on the table,” said Franchot, a Democrat.

The comptroller added that over the coming months, “we will publicly and transparently for the first time review and account for how and where this money was spent.”

Nicole also gave an overview of the state’s Recovery Now Fund, which was paid for by a $306 million transfer from Maryland’s Rainy Day Fund. It supports 34 programs administered by 16 state agencies that provide money for hotel and restaurant grants, entertainment venues, rural broadband, food banks, $1,000 payments to individuals with pending unemployment insurance claims and more.

Of the $306 million, about $178 million has been awarded, just under $150 million has been disbursed, while about $93 million — only 30% — has been spent to date, the comptroller’s office said.

Franchot formed the Comptroller’s Workgroup on Pandemic Spending in April after the General Assembly tasked the agency with submitting quarterly reports on the distribution and expenditure of federal and state pandemic-related spending.

“Over the next few months, this workgroup, along with experts from my agency, will conduct a series of meetings on a wide range of topics to better understand how much money came in, where the money went, and the impact of the dozens of programs, grants and loans that were established,” Franchot said in a news release.

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