TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County is committing over $10 million in grants to protect jobs, small businesses and artists, County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced Tuesday.

The county is setting aside $10 million in new grant funding for small businesses and offering $100,000 in grants to assist professional artists, musicians and performers.

“Small businesses are a critical link of our county’s economy, and we must do all that we can to support them in meeting their basic needs during this crisis,” said County Executive Olszewski. “As we move toward economic recovery, these grants will provide a critical bridge to Baltimore County small businesses who have not received other forms of assistance.”

The Department of Economic and Workforce Development (DEWD) will administer the Baltimore County COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grants Program, which will award grants of up to $15,000 each to more than 650 Baltimore County-based small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.

Additionally, the county is setting a goal to award at least 25 percent of grant funding to women and minority-owned businesses, they announced Tuesday.

The program, which is separate from the federal Paycheck Protection Program created as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, is welcome news to business owners like Chris Janoff at Stone Mill Bakery and Angela Tandy at Sassanova.

“We’re still opening, but for people not to be able to come and sit, (it’s) definitely a rude awakening,” Janoff said.

Tandy said while she has three stores across the state, her website only does a fraction of the business.

For now, since she never heard back from the federal government, she’s been forced to pay her employees out of her own bank account.

“I was one of the first to have my applications in and then I didn’t hear anything,” she said.

Grant applications will be accepted beginning May 11. To qualify, the businesses must retain at least half of the workforce they had before January 31, 2020, including two non-owner employees before the stay-at-home order. They also must: 

  • have at least two employees who are not owners or part-owners,
  • have no more than 25 employees per Baltimore County establishment,
  • demonstrate that they have lost at least 40 percent of their revenues since the Stay at Home order began,
  • have been in operation for at least one year as of January 1, 2020, and commenced operations by December 31, 2018 or earlier, and
  • certify that they have not received other forms of federal or state COVID-19 assistance or relief at the time of application, and
  • be in good standing and not in default with the State of Maryland and Baltimore County.

The county added grant funds must only be used for payroll, operating expenses, business lease or rent and inventory acquisition that is “vital” to the business, with at least 30 percent of the funds used to support payroll for non-owners.

They stipulated that funds may not be used for capital improvements or any personal expenses. If a business fails to reopen, all of the grant funds must be refunded to the county within 14 days.

For professional artists, musicians and performers, county executive Johnny Olszewski is making available the $100,000 for $1,000 stipends for up to 100 artists to help them with financial losses due to the pandemic.

Grants are first-come, first-served basis until the funds are gone and priority will be given to lower-income artists who $37,500 or less per year.

Applicants will submit a streamlined application, document their artistic portfolio, and must be adult Baltimore County residents over the age of 18. The application process will open on May 11, 2020 and details will be available on the Baltimore County Office of Tourism and Cultural Arts webpage.

Artists can use these grants for recouping losses from canceled performances, art-related travel expenses, lost teaching opportunities and the loss of supplemental income for artists working in the service industry.

The county will also team up with the Community College of Baltimore County to launch a training program for contact trace investigators.

“At CCBC, we take pride in our ability to develop short-term training that can quickly prepare people for in-demand jobs,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis. “We are happy to participate in this partnership which will help secure the health and safety of our community as well as generate a pool of specially-trained candidates for new employment opportunities.”

Training will mainly be online and free for participants, with three training modules. The county’s department of health and human services anticipates they will need to hire 60 more contact trace investigators by July 2020 to fill the temporary positions.

There are 52 staff members working on contact tracing in the county.

For additional information on the training course, visit www.ccbcmd.edu.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Sean Streicher