ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County Executive Calvin Ball filed emergency legislation to reallocate $6.5 million of county funds in fiscal year 2021 for coronavirus pandemic aid.
“This was a very challenging time for our residents, our holidays are not what we’re used to, what we expect or what we want. We are all fatigued from the last 10 months of this pandemic. And most importantly, so many of our fellow neighbors are still struggling,” Ball said during a media briefing. “They want our loved ones get sick or even succumb to the virus. Others have lost jobs are still continue struggling to pay their bills. And many feel isolated and alone, creating or exacerbating mental health challenges. We’re concerned about our small businesses having to shut their doors, our neighbors not sure how they will afford groceries or bills and our students struggling with virtual learning. These issues continue to keep me up at night.”
The money will help support residents, businesses and families, including:
$2 million for the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) to issue additional grants and low interest loans;
$1 million for Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) to continue creating infrastructure for additional ICU and bed capacity;
$1 million in housing assistance to prevent evictions and foreclosures;
$1 million for food and utility bill assistance;
And $1.5 million for the extension of vital educational support and childcare programs like HoCo Scholars and RecZone.
“Over the past ten months, we have used every tool in our toolbox to ensure the health and safety of our community,” said Ball. “While we are encouraged that Congress is acting to extend the CARES Act spending deadline, the recent Congressional relief package unfortunately provides no additional funding for State and local governments as we prepare for a winter surge.”
“At this moment, it is necessary for Howard County to once again step up and ensure the well-being of our residents and businesses,” Ball added. “We all know there are brighter days on the horizon, but this pandemic is far from over. What is most clear, is many people cannot wait for relief and action is needed now.”
This funding will provide rental and foreclosure assistance to residents still reeling from impacts of the pandemic. The order protecting residents from being evicted ends on Dec. 31 and the governor’s moratorium on foreclosures will expire on Jan. 31.
“While the moratoriums have helped, the past due rent and mortgage payments are still accruing and residents experiencing COVID-related income losses are really struggling to keep their housing,” said Kelly Cimino, Director of the Howard County Department of Housing and Community Development. “We are hopeful that this much needed funding will help more than 200 residents stay safely housed this winter.”
The funding will also help provide childcare for working parents, continue to fund programs like HoCo Scholars that helps students with college and career readiness.
The legislation is pending approval from the county council.
For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.