2020 | Government

County Council might spend $3M to help clinics, medical and dental practices

Other money might go to help conference center, specific nonprofits

The Montgomery County Council might spend $3 million to help clinics and medical and dental practices struggling during the pandemic.

File photo

Montgomery County has designated grants for specific types of businesses and organizations throughout the COVID-19 health crisis. Now, community clinics and medical and dental practices could get help too.

The County Council is considering setting up a new $3 million fund for multiple purposes.

Most of that — $2 million — would let medical and dental practices get grants of up to $50,000 to help cover lost revenue and reopening costs.

There also would be separate grants of up to $25,000 — for a total of $500,000 — to expand telehealth and efforts to reduce disproportionate health outcomes.

The remaining $500,000 would support Montgomery Cares community clinics that are working with residents affected by the pandemic.

The competitive grant program for medical and dental practices would rank applications. The rankings would based on whether the practice is serving patients from areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19 or can serve clients in languages other than English.

To qualify, a practice must have at least one office in the county primarily used for treating patients.

A public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Council Member Gabe Albornoz said the council has heard from many small practices that are struggling, to the point of considering closing.

“Many of these practices were not accepting new patients even before the pandemic,” he said. “If enough of them fail collectively, then it will significantly disrupt our public health infrastructure in the county and also put us significantly in a weakened position as we look at the possibility of an additional surge in the fall of COVID-19.”

Council Member Craig Rice said practices have not been able to see patients at the same pace as before the pandemic.

“That has huge implications on their ability to try to turn a profit and to remain open,” he said.

The council is also scheduled to have a public hearing on Tuesday on a separate appropriation of more than $37,700 to the current fiscal year’s budget for nonprofits that serve people with developmental disabilities.

When the fiscal year 2021 operating budget was approved on May 21, roughly $17.6 million was designated for supporting nonprofits that serve people with developmental disabilities through living arrangements, adult day care or employment.

The additional funds would go to six nonprofits that are newly eligible for the payments.

Albornoz said the funds were one of the appropriations that fell into the gray area of the “continuity of services” approach to the fiscal year 2021 budget. A “continuity of services” budget doesn’t include most new programs or initiatives.

Council Member Nancy Navarro said it is important to make sure organizations have the funding they need.

“I can only imagine the stress and anxiety, especially during this time of the pandemic that these organizations who work — they do God’s work,” she said.

In addition, the council is considering spending another $1.5 million to support operating expenses for the Montgomery County Conference Center in North Bethesda.

The conference center, jointly owned by the state and county, is managed by Marriott. The management agreement requires that the county “cover operating losses in an event the property does not generate a profit,” according to a staff report.

It would be the first time the county would have to cover operating losses for the center. The center usually generates a profit of up to $1.9 million and is scheduled to return to normal operations in October if events aren’t cancelled, according to a staff report.

The payments would be issued quarterly or monthly, as needed, and the funds would be repaid through revenues as they would be earned.

A public hearing and vote on the funds are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on July 21.

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