City announces $5.5 million fund for small businesses

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The city and quasi-public Baltimore Development Corporation will launch a $5.5 million fund next month to help small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced today.

More than 60 percent of the fund, or $3.5 million, will be doled out as grants of up to $15,000 to help businesses cover rent and payroll and buy personal protective equipment for workers as they plan to reopen.

The fund specifically targets businesses “in certain commercial areas.” While more details will not be available until May 4, Colin Tarbert, president and CEO of Baltimore Development Corporation, said the focus will be on “smaller, ‘Main Street-type’ businesses.”

Another $1.5 million will go toward helping commercial districts to implement social distancing measures as stores and restaurants reopen, utilizing parklets, signage and other design elements to follow health guidelines and keep people separated by six feet.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the city of Baltimore,” Young said. “They are the ones who actually hire local.”

The remaining $500,000 will go toward a grant program run by the Baltimore Development Corporation’s Made In Baltimore program to help local manufacturer’s produce personal protective equipment. The money will go toward additional grants and allow the city to purchase the gear for front-line workers.

Earlier this month, the mayor announced nine local companies had each received grants of up to $7,500 to start making face masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, gowns and hazmat suits.

The city and Baltimore Development Corporation are also launching the COVID-19 Small Business Task Force to provide guidance to businesses on opening up again. It will be co-chaired by City Councilman Eric Costello (District 11) and Shelonda Stokes, interim president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to release a plan for reopening the state on Friday. In an interview with Politico, he offered some new details, saying the state’s economy would open in phases and businesses would be classified as low, medium or high risk depending on the amount of physical space and how much touch is involved.

Young said he hasn’t heard from any business owners who are eager to reopen while the stay-at-home order remains in effect.

“I think, really, they want to be safe, they want to make sure that the curve is actually slowing and they can safely reopen,” he said.

A number of essential businesses, such as grocery stores, liquor stores, manufacturers, and restaurants and bars, have remained open during the pandemic while using modified policies to maintain social distancing.

Last week, Young announced a partnership with investment firms Goldman Sachs and Lendistry to provide $10 million in potentially forgivable loans to small businesses.

Baltimore City’s more than 12,000 small businesses account for more than 150,000 local jobs, Young said at the time.

Tarbert said the Baltimore Development Corporation has surveyed more than 700 businesses to find out about their needs during the pandemic and created a website, BaltimoreTogether.com, providing resources for business owners and workers.

More information on the $5.5 million fund, and eligibility for applying, will be announced on BaltimoreTogether.com on May 4.

Brandon Weigel


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