Maryland has approved $46.1 million in COVID-19 emergency relief grants since the program was established in late March, Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz told delegates Wednesday.
More than $19.1 million in checks have already been sent out to 1,946 businesses across the state, Schulz said. The $50 million fund was established to offset the financial losses caused by coronavirus quarantines.
Schulz acknowledged that her department has been criticized for the amount of time it took to get grants out to businesses, adding that there was no infrastructure to jump-start the program.
“I completely understand the frustration that has resulted from this prolonged process,” Schulz told members of the House Economic Matters Committee during a Wednesday afternoon virtual hearing. “But it is a process.”
Schulz said another factor slowing the grant process was the fact that, for many businesses, it was their first time applying for government assistance.
“No one is happy that businesses waited weeks to find out if they were getting a grant or not,” she said. “But it took time to build a system and get it running.”
Officials received far more applications than there was money, and the Department of Commerce has been reviewing applications on a first-come, first-serve basis, Schulz said. The department received more than 20,000 applications for grants, which would have totaled nearly $200 million had they all been approved.
Maryland also made a loan fund available for businesses. Schulz said her department has approved roughly $59.1 million in loans of the $75 million loan fund so far. Applications received on March 23 and 24 are expected to make up the majority of both grant and loan recipients – but if more money is allocated, more funding can be given out, she said.
The Department of Commerce has also approved $3.7 million in emergency manufacturing grants as of June 2. A total of $5 million was allocated to that program. The Maryland State Arts Council provided a total of $1 million in grants to arts organizations and individual artists.
Schulz said the businesses given relief funding will eventually be a matter of public record, but added she was hesitant to release a list of recipients before all the funding is approved.