Maryland received a massive pot of COVID-19 relief money from the federal government, but how much of that money will be spent remains unknown even to state legislators.
Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R) hasn’t been transparent about how he plans to use millions in relief funds from the federal government, David C. Romans, a fiscal policy and analysis coordinator with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, told lawmakers during a virtual Thursday morning Senate Budget and Taxation Committee briefing.
“The administration has not been terribly forthcoming about how they plan to use that money, except through press releases,” Romans said. “None of this money technically should be spent without a budget amendment being processed.”
He said the Hogan administration has pledged more than $1 billion in federal relief funding for local governments, but added that around $450 million remains unallocated. Romans added that most of his information came from the governor’s news releases.
Secretary of Budget and Management David R. Brinkley said budgetary amendments would eventually be available to outline how the relief funding is being spent.
“The amendments will be forthcoming, and then they’ll be available to you,” Brinkley said. “If I were still in the legislature, I too would be equally frustrated.”
The briefing came as Maryland faces massive budgetary shortfalls as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Board of Public Works recently cut $413 million from the budget in an effort to offset revenue losses, but the state is still facing shortfalls.
Brinkley previously said six years’ worth of revenues could be wiped out by 2022.
“That is staggering,” Brinkley said during a Wednesday evening House Appropriations Committee briefing. “Absolutely staggering.”
Romans cautioned legislators not to rely on federal funding to get them out of the fiscal hole caused by coronavirus. Even under the Department of Legislative Services’ favorable forecasts, Maryland could see billions in revenue shortfalls.
“It would take a massive amount of money to get us out of the challenge we have,” Romans said.
Brinkley added that state officials are trying to find a way to balance the budget without completely draining Maryland’s rainy day fund.
“We have not fully utilized the rainy day fund,” he said. “We don’t want to, we don’t intend to.”