The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous challenges for businesses and residents in the City. In order to protect public health and safety, the Governor has ordered businesses to close and people to stay at home except for essential services. The University of Maryland campus is closed. Many College Park business owners, employees, and residents have been severely impacted by this unprecedented crisis, and it is not at all clear when the economy will improve.
The federal, State, and local governments have or are establishing programs to assist people to get through this situation. At next week’s meeting, the Mayor and Council may consider some of the following actions to provide assistance and relief now and through the end of 2020.
1. Immediate Assistance
A. Direct grants to City-based non-profit organizations such as Meals on Wheels and the College Park Food Bank that provide direct assistance to residents in need. The grants could be tied to purchases from businesses located in the City and used for residents.
B. Extended payment period for City business renewal licenses.
C. Small matching grants to businesses to be used to expand the business’ capacity for online business, delivery, creation of a website to accept gift cards or other processes that enable the business to continue operations during the crisis (cap individual grant at $2,000 and total outlay at $50,000; program could be expanded after review).
D. Cash cards to residents for use at open local businesses during the shutdown. This might incentivize residents to go to them. A card could be worth $25.00 and 200 could be distributed at a cost of $5,000. (Not sure about the logistics of implementing something like this.)
2. Short-term Relief Programs
A. Delay in payment of City business personal property tax for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or forgiveness of first $xxxx of tax due.
B. Explore a piggyback on existing State or County programs that provide funding for emergency residential repairs. The City’s participation would be an added benefit.
C. Amend existing City programs for businesses and residential properties (chainlink fence removal; Homeowners Grant; Public Art; Business Assistance & façade) so the criteria and permitted uses are more flexible for current needs.
[City of College Park]