By Devon Douglas
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on Thursday announced new grants to help businesses struggling during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Ball, whose announcement comes hours after the governor again imposed restrictions for bars, restaurants and businesses, added that additional federal funding will be provided to assist hundreds of Howard County businesses amid the pandemic. Ball also announced a “Give Thanks to Employees” campaign, to encourage appreciation for employees.
The HoCo Rise business grants will provide relief to establishments using money from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, he said. A HoCo Rise Collaborative recently introduced by Ball is a plan that will develop and provide recommendations on the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
“The HoCo RISE Collaborative provides us an opportunity to dive deeper into the implications of this pandemic on all facets of our community and identify best practices as we restore and reimagine how to emerge from these challenging times,” Ball said.
The Collaborative is made up of five independent workgroups that will provide recommendations to handle COVID-19. The Economy Workgroup will recommend policies and practices that will push assets within industries and identify key needs, assist small and minority owned businesses to hurry their technical capabilities, and determine how to prepare long-term.
He said policies and practices also will be recommended to identify new jobs that were a result of COVID-19 and explore workforce training programs to prepare the workforce for those jobs. The Public Health Response will recommend policies and practices that fill remaining systems gaps that are in COVID-19 response efforts, he said.
Another workgroup is Family Opportunities, which will recommend policies and practices that will sustain food availability across the county, address childcare challenges, reduce social service barriers, provide housing opportunities, and increase digital equity. And, the Government Response will continue authority of all government activities, including responding to and leading emergency operations for the County.
Howard County distributed more than $1.6 million in the first round of HoCo RISE business grants to local establishments with funding between $3,000 and $6,000 for each business. The second round of grants are open to new qualified applicants in the same sectors, he said.
Howard County restaurants also will receive $2.5 million provided by Maryland’s Restaurant Relief fund. Finally, Ball announced Howard County Chamber of Commerce organizations with business memberships will receive $10,000.
In addition, Ball introduced the Give Thanks to Employees Campaign to promote safe alternatives for employee appreciation. Ball said this campaign brings support to Howard County restaurants during the holidays. Restaurants in Howard County are offering delivery and pick-up of holiday meals, and holiday treats directly from the restaurant, he said.