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Baltimore County beginning small business grant program amid COVID-19

Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:10:38-04

TOWSON, Md. — Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski on Tuesday announced a series of economic relief efforts to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Part of the effort includes a $10 million Baltimore County COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grants Program.

The program will award grants of up to $15,000 each to more than 650 Baltimore County-based small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.

At least 25 percent funding will be set aside for women and minority-owned businesses.

The grants are being funded through the Economic Development Revolving Financing Fund. The county will look to receive emergency disaster reimbursement from the federal government.

Grant applications will be posted and accepted beginning May 11. To qualify, small businesses must retain at least half of the workforce they had before January 31, 2020, including at least two non-owner employees prior to Maryland’s Stay at Home Order.

Applying businesses can have up to 25 employees, but have to prove they lost at least 40 percent of their revenues since the Stay at Home order began.

To be eligible, applicants need to have been in business since at least December 31, 2018, and certify that they haven't received other federal or state assistance at the time they apply.

Businesses also have to be in good standing and not in default with the State of Maryland and Baltimore County.

Recipients have to spend at least 30 percent of the funds on payroll for non-owners. The rest can only be used for payroll, operating expenses, business lease or rent, and inventory acquisition vital to the business. Funds can't be used for capital improvements or personal expenses.

If a business receiving a grant doesn't reopen, the money needs to be returned to the County within 14 days.

The county is also offering 100 -- $1000 stipends to local artists to help them recoup some of their financial losses during the pandemic.

Artists making $37,500 or less per year will be given priority . Applicants will have to show documentation of their artistic portfolio, and must be over 18-years-old. The process will open on May 11, on a first come first serve basis.

Once approved, artists can use the grants on art-related travel expenses, lost teaching opportunities, and loss of supplemental income for artists working in the service industry.

Also on Tuesday, the county announced a partnership with the Community College of Baltimore County to launch a training program for contact trace investigators.

Contact tracing capacity is one of Governor Larry Hogan's four building blocks in his plan to re-open Maryland.

The training course will allow students to become proficient in the field for when those jobs become available.

The training will be a free three module online course.

Participants will be required to register and will work at their own pace, but the course could be completed in as little as three hours. Those completing the course will still need to complete any other training required by a hiring employer.

Baltimore County expects to hire 60 contact trace investigators by July 2020.

In Baltimore County, those positions will require at least an associate degree as well as proven experience in customer service, strong communication skills, and knowledge of community resources. The County will also seek to fill a number of the positions with individuals who speak both English and Spanish.

Currently, the County has 52 staff members performing contact tracing – most of whom were shifted to their roles from other positions within the Health Department or from Baltimore County Public School Health Services.