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March 04, 2021

Trone, local officials discuss American Rescue Plan

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Brandon Glass

CUMBERLAND — U.S. Rep. David Trone and Western Maryland dignitaries gathered virtually Tuesday to discuss some of the potential benefits the region could see, should the American Rescue Plan pass the Senate and be signed into law, which is the expectation.

The bill contains the headline-grabbing stimulus checks of $1,400 to go out to those making $75,000 or less. The other much bandied about piece, a $15 an hour minimum wage boost, was removed from the bill.

“This is the big one. Our children are struggling with online learning, our families are struggling to pay their bills, put food on the table and small business owners are struggling to keep their doors open and employees on payroll,” Trone said. “The SRP addressed the COVID vaccine. It takes a massive step toward helping us crush the virus with the vaccine, with $20 billion on our vaccination program of America.”

More than $20 billion is set to be dedicated to establishing a national COVID-19 vaccination program, which includes $7.5 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $7.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $600 million for Indian Health Service vaccine-related activities and $5.2 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Another $51 billion is set to go toward expanding testing, contact tracing, mitigation and related activities.

Last year a group of 61 officials, including Trone and Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss, asked for state and local funding to be the first bill, but it didn’t make the cut.

In the American Rescue Plan, $350 billion is included for state and local funding. In Western Maryland, Garrett County will get an estimated $6 million funding and Allegany County will receive an estimated $14 million.

Allegany County is also estimated to receive nearly $24 million in education funding and Garrett County would receive $9.3 million. Overall, $130 billion in funding for K-12 schooling and $40 billion for institutions of higher education are included in the bill.

Around $4 billion was included to help with substance abuse as well as $470 million to support the Older Americans Act, which goes toward mitigating isolation and loneliness among older citizens.

“We had a 100% increase in both overdoses and overdose fatalities here in Cumberland,” Morriss said. “At the same time, we’ve experienced a decline in revenues.”

The city lost about $200,000 in property taxes and lost revenues through the hotel-motel tax with tourism being shut down by the virus.

“$14 million for Allegany County, that’s a tremendous help,” he said. “Cumberland will probably get $200,000 directly, but I know the county will assist us in many other ways.”

In Garrett County, small businesses continue to bear a brunt of the economic impact. The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce has been one of many Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients.

“The inclusion of another $7.25 billion for the PPP program will help to ensure equitable access to expand eligibility for nonprofits of all sizes and types,” said Nicole Christian, president and CEO of Garrett Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve worked with hundreds of small business throughout the pandemic. When even one closes its doors, that impact is really felt.”

Also in the rescue plan is the creation of a state small business credit initiative to provide $10 billion in support of up to $100 billion in small business financing through state, territorial and tribal government programs.

Artie Travis, vice president for Student Affairs at Frostburg State University, said the university plans to continue to use the support from the new bill the way it has from the prior bills — to purchase personal protective equipment, lease rooms at local hotels for quarantining, keep up it’s testing protocol and run student assistance programs.

“With the ARP, it will help expand the public health workforce by providing $7.6 billion and an additional 100,000 full-time employees into public health. It’s going to provide $100 million to support the medical reserve corps,” said Melissa Clark, associate director of AHEC West in Allegany County. “(It) invests $27 billion to address health disparities and protect vulnerable populations, which is huge in our region.”

Also included in the bill is $285 million to support the mental and behavioral health of first responders. No one will have to pay more than 8.5% of their income to get a silver plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.