HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Arts and live entertainment have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some facilities have been forced to permanently shut their doors. But in Howard County, officials hope a $750,000 grant will prevent even more places from going under.

County officials say “The HoCo RISE Live Theatre and Artist Relief Funds” includes more than $530,000 for Merriweather Post Pavilion. The outdoor concert venue has been closed during its prime summer months.

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“It’s been very timely and it will help us out substantially,” Jean Parker, with Merriweather Post Pavillion, said.

Parker said other levels of government should also come forward to help the arts community.

“In addition to the local funding, we still need more, we need significantly more,” Parker said. “We need help from the state, and the help from the federal government.”

The owner of the Drama Learning Center and Red Branch Theatre, Stephanie Williams, said her business has already been approved for the grant.

Williams said her business’ revenue loss is in the six-figure range. Her company is expected to receive $36,000 from the grant, but all of that funding will go toward three months’ rent.

“We thought surely we would be able to be up and running by summer,” Williams said. “Of course, no one knew when this started how long it would continue.”

Toby’s Dinner Theatre is expected to receive $75,000. The owner, Toby Orenstein, said the money will help keep her business open.

Orenstein said she decided to keep 14 employees on staff because she did not know how long the pandemic would last.

“I’m a fighter,” Orenstein said. “I was very close to giving up, but I don’t go around begging unless I’m on my last leg, and we were on our last leg.”

County Executive Calvin Ball said it was necessary to step in to prevent businesses and gig performers from falling into more financial struggles.

“For many in the arts community, they already live in a place that isn’t a high level of profit, and so this pandemic could be quite detrimental and devastating,” Ball said.

Individual artists could also qualify for $1,000. The Howard County Arts Council will disseminate the grant funding to individuals and entities who are eligible.

Click here to be redirected to the Howard County Arts Council website for more information.

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.

Ava-joye Burnett

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