The County Council continues to work on providing funding for specific sectors to assist in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 health emergency.
At the behest of County Executive Marc Elrich, the council yesterday introduced legislation to appropriate $20 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to expand rental assistance for eviction and homelessness prevention.
The funding would augment the county’s COVID-19: Rent Relief program, which currently has a waiting list for assistance.
“With the courts lifting the stay on evictions after July 25 and the schedule to hear nonpayment of rent cases after August 31, I believe it is imperative that we support tenants using all our resources,” said Elrich in a press release. “I recognize that $20 million is not the full amount we will need, but it represents a significant initial allotment to meet immediate challenges.”
The council plans to vote on the appropriation at its July 28 meeting.
Also yesterday, Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz (D-At Large) and Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) introduced a $7.5 million special appropriation “to provide a strategic, culturally competent, community focused approach to public health,” according to a press release.
The funding would establish Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar (For Our Health and Wellbeing) to provide COVID-19 testing, health resources and public education targeted to the county’s Latino residents.
Those residents have been some of the hardest hit in the area, according to data from the county’s Department of Health and Human Services.
During May, the positive cases for white residents was 16.1% compared to 67.6% for Latino residents, and in June these percentages were 2.7% and 28.3%, respectively.
In addition, 73% of the new COVID-19 cases in June were Latino residents, and they account for 37% of all cases.
Two of the top 10 zip codes affected are Silver Spring’s 20901 and 20910 areas.
The council also approved a $3 million special appropriation that includes a $2 million grant program to assist the county’s independent primary care and dental providers affected by the COVID-19 emergency.
“In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services would receive $500,000 to support the work of Montgomery Cares community clinics and provide services to residents who live in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Moreover, $500,000 would be allocated for grants to provide additional access to healthcare by expanding telehealth or supporting medical innovations with a focus on reducing disproportionate health outcomes. These grants would be capped at $25,000 per provider and $50,000 for direct financial support,” according to a council press release.
Finally, in a non-COVID-related vote, the council approved a special appropriation of almost $600,000 for DHHS to expand its mobile crisis response services.
“A significant percentage of service calls are related to mental health or substance abuse. However, the county’s Mobile Crisis Team does not currently have the capacity to cover many of those calls leaving police officers, who are not mental health professionals, to respond,” said Council Vice President Hucker, who spearheaded the effort, in a press release.
“I believe having more mental health professionals on the ground can reduce tragic events such as the police-involved shootings of Emmanuel Okutuga, Robert White and Finan Berhe,” Hucker added.