Many details are still unknown, but County Executive Jan Gardner said Congress’ second coronavirus relief bill will provide necessary funding to many county needs, from rental assistance to public education.
Gardner (D) said it is unclear how much money will ultimately be allocated to Frederick County. The county received roughly $45.3 million in March through the CARES Act.
Some of the money will go to vaccine distribution, funneled through the state and county public health departments, Gardner said. That money will also pay for contact tracing and ongoing testing, she added.
Rental assistance will also directly be provided in block grants to the county because its population is greater than 200,000.
“This is good news and ensures we can continue rental assistance and help people avoid eviction,” Gardner wrote in an email. “I don’t yet know the allocation amount or what the requirements on the use of the money [are], which can sometimes be challenging for compliance.”
Some portion of $868 million allocated for Maryland public schools will be allocated to Frederick County, and other money will be used for small business assistance.
That “will target small businesses and some industries hard hit by the pandemic including restaurants, theaters and event venues, and childcare,” Gardner wrote.
The second coronavirus relief bill also provides an additional $300 per week on top of usual unemployment benefits, which began in late December and will last for several weeks.
It’s an issue Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick), chair of the Frederick County delegation, and Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll) have heard about from constituents since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have probably gotten more emails from people that have written 10, 12, 15 times [to the unemployment system and] waited for weeks than any other single topic,” Lewis Young said.
Hough agreed, noting the unemployment system was quickly overwhelmed. His constituent service team was working more claims than perhaps all the other years he’s been in Annapolis combined, he said.
“We just had hundreds of cases of unemployment, and people who were really in dire straits,” Hough said. “In a normal year, I might have a hundred constituent cases ... well, we had a couple hundred every month [this year].”