County Executive Jan Gardner (D) announced $4.3 million in business grants Thursday, bringing the overall grant total to about $16.5 million since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Gardner said about $1 million will come from the state thanks to the RELIEF Act, legislation the General Assembly passed this year. The rest would come from the CARES Act, the first coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress last year. There previously was a Dec. 31 deadline for that money, but that was extended, Gardner said.
The grants will be distributed to the following industries:
- $21,000 for agriculture technology
- $398,873 for the hospitality industry and bed and breakfast providers
- $877,322 for restaurants and other eating establishments
- $3 million for small businesses — they must have a physical location in Frederick County, have fewer than 50 employees and be open prior to Oct. 1, 2020
Gardner said the county is also slated to receive another $50 million from the American Rescue Plan, which is the coronavirus relief bill passed this year. The county’s municipalities should also receive $45 million.
County officials are still having discussions about where that money will be spent, Gardner said. But there is a great need, whether it be business assistance, mental health services, rental assistance, child care, overall health services or other areas, she said.
Gardner said she had a virtual meeting with the Thurmont Lions Club Wednesday night, where attendees spoke about the need for those areas along with a strong education system post-pandemic, she said.
“I do think there is an opportunity to do this well and to make a big difference, so that we get out of this crisis stage and that we really go to a much better place before we started,” Gardner said.
“We’re very fortunate in Frederick County because we’re just the right size: We have enough expertise in the community to get things done that are not just government,” she said. “The nonprofits and foundations have really collaborated through this … so we have the expertise, but we actually know all the players too.”
In response to Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) announcement lifting a mask mandate outdoors except for large gatherings at sporting events and other similar venues, Gardner said Thursday county parks would likely follow a similar model.
More details will be provided to residents Friday, but Gardner offered some insight on what the rule may look like.
“If you’re in a park to walk or bike, you don’t need to wear a mask. But we have sports stadiums with seating. So just like the governor said, you need to wear a mask in the stadium if you go to a ball game — we want to consider doing the same thing,” the county executive said.