Today, County Executive Calvin Ball announced nearly $6 million in CARES Act funding will be allocated to the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) to offset COVID-19 related expenditures for virtual instruction and lay the groundwork for safe and effective instruction moving forward. The funding will support technology, meals for students, public health and safety supplies, and increased unemployment costs. Ball also announced a CARES Act spending dashboard that will track the actual and projected spending of federal funding as the December 30th federal deadline approaches.
“Howard County will provide nearly $6 million to support our schools as they offset COVID-19 related expenditures for our educators and students. We all want the best teaching and learning environment possible and want our students to return safely to school as soon as possible,” said Ball. “We are pleased that this investment will support our school system in enhancing their instructional model, keeping educators and students safe, and providing some of the resources students need to be successful.”
HCPSS has already incurred approximately $22.6 million in costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The $5.9 million in funding will support HCPSS in four areas:
· $2.8 million for technology to support both teachers and students;
· $2.5 million for public health and safety items for students, staff and facilities;
· $400,000 to provide meals for students; and
· $200,000 to cover increased unemployment costs.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on teaching, learning and wellbeing, and HCPSS had to work quickly to respond during this challenging environment. To date, HCPSS has incurred or projects to encumber $22.6 million in pandemic related costs,” said HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael J Martirano. “The additional CARES Act funding provides financial support for expenses incurred in the areas of technology, health and safety, meal service, and unemployment to ensure the continuation of robust instructional delivery. Thank you to County Executive Ball for his support of Howard County students, teachers and staff.”
“I applaud the hard work of our staff as they have identified some areas to reduce costs as a result of the pandemic, but the cuts are not nearly enough to overcome the significant costs associated with responding to needs in a system as large as ours,” said Mavis Ellis, Board of Education Chair. “So, I want to personally thank the County Executive and his staff for their continued collaboration throughout this pandemic and for their understanding of its impact on education and our community.”
CARES Act Dashboard
In the interest of transparency, Howard County is launching a dashboard to track spending of its allocated CARES Act funding. This dashboard will track the County’s actual and projected spending as the December 30th federal deadline for expending all funds approaches.
“We believe it’s imperative that the federal government act to provide an additional round of stimulus funding to local governments as we endure another spike in cases,” said Ball. “We are confident that we will meet our CARES Act deadline by the end of the year, but we are also joining our fellow County Executives and Mayors in urging for a federal extension to allocate funds as we combat this winter surge. While we await federal action, we are actively using the funding we have to support our community and believe this dashboard should provide public confidence in our plan to spend the funds we have received to date.”
The County has actively used its CARES Act funding to address a variety of community needs, including:
· $5.7 million in business assistance grants, which to date have been used to provide assistance to:
o 249 child care providers
o 202 retail businesses
o 146 restaurants
o 45 farms
o 21 hotels, and
o 3 performing art venues
· $1.6 mil to rental assistance
· $1.5 mil to non-profits through the RISE to the Challenge Grant program;
· $750k to the HoCo Scholars program to provide in-person instruction to selected middle schoolers;
· $450k to address the digital equity gap through free internet, broadband expansion and providing additional public wi-fi hot spots;
· $300k to improve access to food throughout the County;
· $60k to provide legal assistance to tenants facing eviction;
· And ongoing funding to support expanded and subsidized child care offerings through Rec and Parks.
Additionally, the County has used CARES Act funding to support the continuity of government, including:
· Nearly $3 million in supply purchases to facilitate telework and ensure the safety of County employees;
· $2.8 million to provide hazard pay to employees dedicated to responding to the pandemic;
· $1.8 million to fund salary and overtime for employees, primarily for Fire and Rescue, Police and Rec and Parks staff;
· And $1 million in additional services needed to adjust to COVID-19.