ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he plans to use $250 million from Maryland's Rainy Day Fund for small businesses hit by the pandemic.
According to the governor, Maryland remains one of only eight states where new coronavirus cases are low and continue to stay low. He added the CDC cites Maryland as among the lowest in the nation on new deaths, with 0.7 new deaths per 100,000, and this month- for the first time since the pandemic began- the state has had zero new deaths on some days statewide.
Gov. Hogan said social gatherings continue to be the most likely source of transmission for the virus- the number one activity is family gatherings.
He said the second top activity is house parties and outdoor events.
Shifting to the state's economy, he claimed Maryland was able to keep over 70% of businesses open during the peak of the pandemic, with 98% of them reopened by mid-June. The state was able to reopen 100% of businesses in September.
He again called for all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland to move to the third phase of the state's coronavirus recovery plan, which several- including Baltimore City- have not yet done.
He cited that "the failure of Washington" will have a devastating impact.
"We need both parties in Washington to stop playing politics, to end the gridlock, and to get this done for the American people. Our small business community and our struggling Marylanders who depend on them for their jobs cannot afford to wait any longer." Gov. Hogan said.
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More than 81,000 businesses have already received $10 billion in federal PPP funding, and $250 million in emergency economic relief for over 10,000 grants and loans to small businesses and non-profits.
Now, he said the state will double their relief. The Maryland Strong: Economic Recovery Initiative will double the $250 million originally set aside to bring it to a total of $500 million.
It will fund a combination of relief programs and expand other existing ones.
The state will provide $50 million to fully fund the "entire" backlog of grant applications already received and reviewed, $50 million in direct grant relief for the state's more than 11,500 restaurants.
Restaurants will be able to use the funds for sanitization services, payroll and rent, PPE purchases, infrastructure improvements and more. The initiative will also fund $20 million through the Maryland Department of Housing to business and local entertainment venues within Main Street Maryland organizations and Baltimore Main Street programs. $2 million will go to support tourism in Maryland, promoting local restaurants and shops.
Along with that, $20 million will go to the state's COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund to help small businesses with an average of 20 employees stay open. The governor claimed it has saved nearly 9,000 jobs so far.
For small and minority businesses with low-interest loans, the governor announced $5 million to double their funding.
The Maryland State Arts Council's Emergency Grant Program will receive an additional $3 million.
A dedicated emergency rapid response fund of $100 million will be used to send to other areas of economic need.
The Maryland Chamber of Commerce praised Thursday's announcement, with the group's president and CEO Christine Ross saying in a statement they are "extremely grateful for Governor Larry Hogan's unwavering support of the Maryland business community throughout the COVID-19 crisis."
"His announcement today will go a long way in helping our state's employers face these difficult times with hope and confidence as they work to get back on their feet and keep Maryland open for business.," Ross continued.
However, Comptroller Peter Franchot issued a statement Thursday saying this new effort is "simply not enough,"
"Today's announcement by Governor Hogan is a good start, but it's simply not enough. Nearly half of the $250 million is being set aside without explanation on how and when it will be used. Contrary to the Governor's analysis of our fiscal posture, we are in a position to do more without taking another penny from the Rainy Day Fund.
"Just two years ago, the State of Maryland was willing to pony up $8.6 Billion to lure Amazon's East Coast headquarters. Surely, we can do better than letting tens of thousands of small businesses, nonprofits, and Main Street communities fight over scraps."
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