As the temperature drops but COVID-19 cases rise, Montgomery County wants to help businesses keep their doors open and operate safely during the pandemic.
A fund with $1.25 million from federal aid money might help. The county is considering using that money to give outdoor “streeteries” — blocked-off streets filled with tables and chairs for patrons to eat outdoors — tools to prepare for operating during winter, such as heaters.
The county’s Regional Services Centers would distributing funding in each district where a streetery is either using part of the county’s right of way or partnering with the county for the space.
County Council Member Andrew Friedson said at a meeting on Tuesday that the ability for each community to direct funds towards each streetery’s needs will provide flexibility.
“The outdoor dining that we’ve provided has really helped residents to be safe during this unique time and have some small semblance of normalcy and has helped the restaurants and retailers to survive and keep their lights on in a really difficult time,” he said.
Separately, the council on Tuesday introduced a proposal for $225,095 to be used from the general fund reserves for aiding organizations with residential living programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The money would help provide personal protective equipment and training on how to use it. It also could help recipients develop testing protocols.
The general fund reserves would be reimbursed through federal funding for the program.
Organizations providing personal support, in-home support, and employment and day habilitation programs would also be eligible.
Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said at the meeting on Tuesday that the spread of COVID-19 has disproportionately hurt organizations that serve residents in group settings.
“There has unfortunately been very limited guidance provided by our partners at the state level,” he said. “So at the local level, I’m proud that our Department of Health and Human Services has worked collaboratively with the Primary Care Coalition to stand up a unique and important effort to support the needs of these congregant living organizations.”
Public hearings and votes on both funds are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 8.
In addition, the council unanimously approved $1.4 million in state funding to assist residents who have had their employment affected by the pandemic.
The money will be used for training toward certification or licenses for industries, as well as scholarships for tuition and other costs.
Another $4.3 million in a federal grant was unanimously approved for rent assistance to residents who have lost income because of the pandemic. It will also be used on emergency shelter for homeless individuals.
More rental assistance was approved with another federal grant of $3.5 million to provide rent assistance to households with income of 60% of area median income or less at risk of eviction after losing income due to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the council also unanimously amended funds for child care and a tourism grant program.
In November, the council approved $1.8 million for the Greater Washington Community Children’s Opportunity Fund to provide before, during and after school child care to 500 children over a 12-week period.
The council amended the fund resolution to clarify that the foundation can recoup costs for services delivered retroactive to Aug. 31, 2020 and extending through June 16, 2021.
The council also extended the required reporting period through July 1, 2021. It had been March 1, 2021.
The council amended the Tourism Stabilization Grant Program to allow for-profit businesses to apply. It was previously only open to nonprofits.
For-profit applicants must still meet the program’s qualifications:
● Be tourist-oriented
● Receive operating and capital support from the public sector
● Attracted a minimum of 25,000 visitors in 2018 and 2019
● Was mandated to close due to the health emergency
● Lost revenue because of the pandemic
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.