2021 | Government

This is how Montgomery County plans to spend $48.5M from American Rescue Plan

Funds aimed toward emergency rental assistance and health, food programs

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County officials said $48.5 million of federal pandemic relief money would be aimed at rental aid, health and food distribution. 

The county received the funds through the American Rescue Plan, a bill Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed in March. The county has received other money from the federal plan.

County Executive Marc Elrich and his administration stated they would submit $48.5 million of supplemental budget requests, pending approval by the County Council. 

Of that $48.5 million: 

  • $34 million will be used for the second round of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program
  • $7.7 million will go to Por NuestraSalud y Bienestar (Latino Health Initiative) and the African American Health Program
  • $6.8 million will assist residents who are food insecure 

In a news briefing with reporters Wednesday, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said one reason it’s taken months for the county to figure out the latest round of funding is because of the demand for the rental assistance program. 

Before the pandemic, the county was distributing a few million dollars of rental assistance annually, he said. Now, with rental assistance needs rising due to the pandemic, the county is giving out around 10 times that amount, Stoddard added. 

“It’s bad that people need it, it’s great that we have the resources to give out, but it also presents tremendous challenges for us organizationally, to be able to distribute these dollars in a way that’s both fair and equitable [and] rapid, but also consistent with the federal regulation,” Stoddard said. 

County officials are currently distributing $59 million from the first round of the county’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program funding. 

Of that $59 million, $31 million was directly received from the federal government and $28 million was funneled through Maryland. Both infusions were part of the American Rescue Plan. 

Montgomery County government, in total, is projected to receive about $204.1 million through that bill.   

A report published by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday shows that the county had distributed about $23.1 million from the federal funds and $21 million of the funds funneled through the state.  

The allocation for rental assistance was determined by what the federal government gives to jurisdictions, Stoddard said. Money for health programs and food assistance is allocated based on needs and programming developed between county officials and numerous partners, he added.  

There still is great demand for food assistance, because many low-income workers affected by the pandemic are struggling to buy food, Stoddard said.  

He said the pandemic showed there were people finding it difficult to put food on the table, even before the impacts of the coronavirus on the economy.  

Elrich told reporters he’s been to many food drives and heard that the demand isn’t going away.  

“Even as we hear about rising employment and more people going back to work … they continue to see very large numbers of people still struggling to buy food and to meet their basic needs,” Elrich said of the food distribution sites. “So this is not disappearing as quickly as people thought it might disappear.” 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com