ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is calling for immediate financial support to Maryland citizens to keep homes and businesses afloat. Calling the aid “Direct Stimulus Assistance,” Mr. Franchot said in a conversation with The Banner on Jan. 13 that the move is necessary to meet needs until federal help arrives, which, he said, could take weeks.
He said he was initially skeptical about the government payments during the COVID-19 crisis, but, “It proved to be a huge success.”
Many businesses and households have been devastated by a loss of income during the pandemic, through a combination of mandated shutdowns, voluntary quarantines and layoffs resulting from lower demand. He said 462,830 Maryland families with incomes lower than $40,000 a year are suffering.
As comptroller, Mr. Franchot occupies the top financial post in the state. He is a member of the three-person Board of Public Works, along with Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Governor Larry Hogan. The Board makes decisions regarding state expenditures.
Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, has announced his candidacy for governor in the 2022 election.
He is pushing for an aid package totaling $925 million, including $250 million to small businesses. The money, Mr. Franchot said, it available in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. He said Ms. Kopp supports his calls for additional assistance.
The money is limited, though, because Maryland can’t borrow or print it the way the federal government can. The payments, which will not be ongoing, are a responsible choice, Mr. Franchot said, because of the multiplying effect — money spent in local businesses boosts other local commerce.
He acknowledged that the moves could involve state borrowing, but, “You’re only adding to the debt one time.” He said he had been surprised that COVID payments had not produced much inflation, a bit of good news for the economy.
Some of the business support would go to landlords, who have been facing their own challenges. Tenants with no work or savings don’t pay rent, and now that eviction protections could soon expire, the tenants could be put out of their homes or businesses.
But that won’t get the landlords their money, either. The evictions would also disproportionately affect low-income citizens.
Landlords “just need something,” Mr. Franchot said, adding that state aid could reach 40-50 percent of the lost income.
Tax deferrals have been established, once again giving Maryland businesses extra time to pay. That was done last year, with the result that state revenues were not reduced — businesses finally settled their bills, when they could.
“In fact, they did pay us,” Mr. Franchot said. “God bless them.”
Now, as infection numbers in the state are on a steep incline, the situation could become more serious before it improves. “This is all hands on deck,” Mr. Franchot said.