Jan Gardner

Jan Gardner, Frederick County Executive.

County Executive Jan Gardner announced roughly $1.36 million in grants for child care providers and to provide legal assistance for county residents facing eviction at a briefing Thursday.

The child care grants are being allocated from the CARES Act funding the county received from Congress. Up to $4,100 was available for qualifying family care providers; $5,100 for small child care centers up to 59 kids; and $6,800 for large centers with 60 or more kids.

Gardner said that $1,362,600 had been awarded, and should be distributed to child care centers by the end of the week: $951,100 to 232 family care providers, $112,000 to 22 small child care centers and $299,200 to large child care centers.

After the briefing, Gardner said the remaining money would go back into the CARES Act budget for the county, which totals a little more than $45 million. That money must be spent by the end of 2020.

In a broader sense, Gardner said it is important for Congress to pass another stimulus bill soon, because it's likely business restrictions and other complications due to the coronavirus pandemic will last into 2021.

Any additional money will be needed for programs like rental assistance, helping supply food banks, child care providers and other needs, Gardner said. But county government officials are also asking for more flexibility with the new stimulus, like allowing it to be used for revenue shortfalls.

"We are not allowed to use any of this CARES funding for revenue backfill, for anything that's in our budget, or was budgeted," Gardner said. "And the same thing applies to the people that are getting these grants ... they're using it for increased costs, but they're not using it for lost revenue."

She added federal lawmakers might need to make the CARES Act funding more flexible, along with allowing it to be spent beyond 2020.

Gardner also announced the county had signed a memorandum of agreement with Maryland Legal Aid to assist county residents who might be facing eviction due to the coronavirus pandemic.

County residents were receiving an additional $600 a week on top of their typical unemployment benefits, but that ran out at the end of July. Now, residents might have a trickier time paying rent with less assistance, Gardner said.

Communications Director Vivian Laxton said just over $80,000 in CARES Act funding was used to help hire the additional help from Maryland Legal Aid.

Key election dates

Stuart Harvey, the county's election director, provided an update on how the general election will be run. 

He noted ballot drop boxes—where residents can deliver their mail-in ballots until 8 p.m. on Election Day—will be delivered by state officials in the coming weeks. Those will be placed throughout the county, The Frederick News-Post previously reported

Oct. 13 is the deadline to register to vote, and Oct. 20 is the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot, either by mail, fax or email. Early voting will occur from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2. Election Day is Nov. 3.

Harvey encouraged residents to vote by mail, for the safety of election judges and the general public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite some reporting nationwide about possible troubles of mail-in ballots, Harvey said he isn't concerned. He's received thousands of mail-in ballot applications through the U.S. Postal Service. One day last week, he said he got 4,900 applications.

"The mail is getting through," Harvey said. "But again, if people are uncomfortable ... they can put either their application or their ballot in one of our drop boxes," Harvey said.

Once those are placed throughout the county in the coming weeks, Harvey and his staff will be emptying all of them daily, and they will be monitored by cameras 24/7.

"It's really up to the voter how they want to deliver it to us, and if they don't want to do USPS, the drop boxes are there," Harvey said.

He also noted county voters should get a sample ballot in October, and asked them to ignore their registration card they would receive with their typical polling place, since not all regular polling places will be open this Election Day.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

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