5.31.20 – WBAL – BALTIMORE
Two months have passed since the governor announced a financial lifeline to small businesses, but just a fraction of the promised financial relief has been distributed. See video
The small business relief effort has been much like the system of unemployment benefits, there’s a huge demand and a slow and frustrating response.
On March 23, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the closing of nonessential business as part of his response to the coronavirus pandemic. He also announced a relief package for small business heavily impacted by the closings.
“We are immediately launching a $175 million comprehensive business relief program here in Maryland,” Hogan said March 23.
Of the $175 million, $125 million was to provide grants and loans to small business.
But to date, just $16.2 million — representing 1,479 grants and loans — has been distributed, according to the Maryland Department of Commerce.
Small business owner Stephanie Fleishman is among those still waiting for her application to be answered.
“It has been a struggle. Not having the income coming in. It’s been a struggle. Being a small business owner, it’s been a whole range of emotion. Normal is not what it used to be,” Fleishman said May 21.
“I know the Commerce Department really wants to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and that’s really important, but they also get the money into the hand of people who need it,” said Sen. Shelly Hettleman, a Democrat who represents Baltimore City’s 11th District.
Hettleman is also pushing commerce officials to publicize the businesses that have received the money.
“This is not to say commerce is doing anything wrong, but I have small business owners who want to see that list. If they are not getting the money, they want to see who is,” Hettleman said.
In a letter sent to legislators this month, Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz said she has brought on volunteers to process applications for small business assistance. She also blamed delays on what she called incomplete applications, the result of businesses unaccustomed to asking for state assistance.