2021 | Business

Restaurants, hotels could soon have access to $11.2M in relief grants

$2.5M approved to help conference center

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Restaurants and hotels in Montgomery County could soon get more financial help, with roughly $11.2 million coming from the state for two grant programs.

In addition, the County Council approved $2.5 million from its general fund reserves to go toward helping the Montgomery County Conference Center in North Bethesda.

Of the $11.2 million for restaurants and hotels, $4.9 million would go to a Restaurant Relief Grant Program and the remaining $6.2 million would be used for a Hotel Relief Grant Program.

The programs are being funded through state aid and were introduced at the County Council’s meeting on Tuesday. Public hearings and votes on the two funds are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday of next week.

Food trucks, caterers, wineries and breweries are eligible for the restaurant relief fund. In order to qualify, applicants have to:
● Have their principal place of business in Montgomery County
● Be in “good standing” with the state
● Require financial assistance
● Have not and will not use funding from the county through other COVID-19 grant programs to fund the same expenses for the state grant.

The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation will manage the program.

For the hotel program, applications will qualify if they:
● Are located in the county and are subject to the transient tax
● Be in good standing with the state
● Have at least 10 sleeping rooms, or 5 sleeping rooms if the entity is a bed and breakfast establishment
● Demonstrate a reduction in gross revenue of at least 25% from April 2020 to November 2020, when compared to April 2019 to November 2019
● Be open to the public for accommodations by March 31, 2021

According to a staff report, the per-room allocation for hotel applicants will be $644.60 and the potential maximum a property could receive will be $64,460.29. The Conference and Visitors Bureau and the county will administer the program.

The $2.5 million that the council approved for the conference center will help support operating expenses. Officials previously approved $1.5 million to address the center’s revenue shortfalls in July.

The county owns the property jointly with the state. The management agreement with Marriott requires that the county cover operating losses if the property does not generate a profit.

The county has received a profit of up to $1.9 million from the center’s operations since the center opened in 2004. The aid funds are expected to be repaid through revenues as they would be earned.

Because the center’s operations are restricted due to the health crisis, it has needed additional aid from the county.

At the time that County Executive Marc Elrich made the appropriation request in early December, the center had sufficient cash on hand to cover expenses through Dec. 31, 2020.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.