Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said on Friday that the county has set aside funds to help feed and house needy residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ball said that about 23,000 Howard County residents have filed for unemployment since March 27 — including about 6,000 claims filed in the past week. Most non-essential businesses in the state are closed due to restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. However, Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday relaxed some of the restrictions in the state to allow for both the resumption of some outdoor recreational activities and elective medical procedures. Hogan has said the state’s stay-at-home order, which went into effect on March 30, could be lifted as early as next week if the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU stays continue to drop.
“With this record rise in unemployment, food insecurity is a crucial issue for our residents. So we are allocating $200,000 in food assistance funding to the Howard County Community Action Council,” Ball (D) said in an online press gaggle.
“The funds are part of the initial $500,000 in disaster relief and recovery initiative in my proposed fiscal year 2021 operating budget and pending approval of the Howard County Council. This relief funding will provide much-needed support to our local food bank — which has served more than 12,000 individuals since mid-March, when this crisis began in full.”
Bita Dayhoff is president of the Action Council, which operates the food bank. Dayhoff said the increase in funding will make a huge difference for the food bank, which normally is equipped to feed about 2,000 people per month.
“This additional funding is really a tremendous lift for the work that we have ahead of us throughout the summer in supporting our community and we are grateful.”
Ball said the county also has allocated extra money to address housing concerns during the pandemic.
“Today we’re providing an additional $800,000 in rental assistance and eviction relief for our low- and moderate-income families — with $300,000 of that coming from the disaster-relief recovery initiative in the proposed budget and an additional $500,000 coming from the Moderate Income Housing Unit (MIHU) fee-in-lieu revenue sources.”
Ball said that even though the state is beginning to open up, it still will not be safe to go about business as usual. He made some announcements in light of that premise.
“We have made the difficult decision to cancel our July Fourth fireworks celebration hosted annually at Lake Kittamaqundi in Columbia. Our fireworks celebrations draw large crowds of generally between twenty and thirty thousand residents and visitors. And we do not anticipate being in a place in early July where it will be safe for that many people to gather — not just from our county, our state, but frankly from around our region. Additionally, all weddings and large gatherings at Recreation and Parks facilities are going to be canceled through June 14.”
Raul Delerme, the county’s director of Recreation and Parks, said his department is working with state and county officials to prepare for the reopening of the state.
“With the governor’s recovery plan now in motion, things are moving fairly quickly. And our department is ready. And we will continue to work with the guidance provided by the state and county executive as well. We have been working hard on developing virtual programs for the citizens of Howard County. We are also waiting for the proper guidance to be able to develop direction for the new normal…at this time we only want to open amenities that can be used by a limited number of people that can physically distance from each other.”