ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan is earmarking $250 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help small businesses and restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus and all its associated shutdowns.
Hogan said many businesses and their employees are “hanging on by a thread” because of the economic and other impacts of the virus.
“They may not make it another month or two,” Hogan said during a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 22 in Annapolis.
The new money doubles Maryland’s small business and economic assistance funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the total to $500 million, Hogan said.
The effort includes a new $50 million effort geared toward helping restaurants expand outdoor dining and install tents and heaters for the colder weather. The new money will also allow the Maryland Department of Commerce to approve grants and help for small businesses that have already applied for assistance.
Hogan said there is still more than $900 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund and that the new money is needed to help save jobs and small businesses.
He hopes the state efforts will help the economy and save jobs until there is a coronavirus vaccination approved and deployed and a potential new federal stimulus program is passed. Both of those won’t likely come until after the presidential election.
“I know that there is COVID fatigue and tremendous frustration that this pandemic is continuing to disrupt our daily lives. I know a great many people are experiencing a great deal of hardship and stress. This has been a very long and difficult year for all of us,” Hogan said during the press conference Oct. 22.
Hogan wants Maryland counties to move faster to distribute remaining CARES Act funding and match the state’s efforts to help small businesses, restaurants and nonprofits. He also continues to press more urban counties such as Prince George’s and Montgomery as well as Baltimore City to quicken their efforts to allow more businesses to reopen.
The efforts announced Oct. 22 by the governor also include $3 million in additional funding to help arts groups and $2 million to help local tourism efforts.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said Hogan’s announcement is a good start but more needs to be done. Franchot is pushing hard for a fiscal year-end $585 million fund balance at the state’s disposal to be used to immediately help struggling small businesses.
“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,” Franchot said in a statement.
“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,” Franchot said.
Hogan was on the Eastern Shore on Monday, Oct. 19, and met with watermen in Cambridge and toured downtown St. Michaels. He also announced a new $10 million program to help poultry farmers impacted by the pandemic.
Hogan said Maryland is performing better both in terms of coronavirus metrics and the economy.
“Maryland remains one of only eight states in America where new cases of COVID are low and continue to remain low,” Hogan said.