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Rona Kobell

The Baltimore Banner

April 2, 2024

The Baltimore County Council unanimously adopted two resolutions at its regular Monday night meeting supporting the state and federal responses to the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

The first resolution expressed “unequivocal support and appreciation” for the first responders leading the rescue and recovery efforts at the site, which includes Baltimore and Baltimore County. The 1.6-mile bridge, which collapsed March 26, connected Baltimore County to the city and Anne Arundel County, and was a fixture in the county since its construction in 1977. One of the victims, Maynor Suazo Sandoval, lived in Owings Mills.

The second resolution extends the state of emergency that County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. declared immediately after the collapse. The resolution, which the Olszewski administration submitted, continues the county’s resolve to be part of the coordinated response to the bridge collapse recovery for as long as necessary, County Administrative Officer Stacy L. Rogers said. The extended state of emergency will provide more resources to help families suffering because of the disaster, including county equipment, facility space, and access to funding streams to assist the local economy.

The meeting opened with a prayer for the families of those who are presumed dead in the collapse.

County Council Chairman Izzy Patoka also praised Sameer Sidh, who is serving as the interim director of the county’s economic and workforce development department while also carrying out his duties as deputy county administrator.

“Little did you know you would be thrust into a global situation,” Patoka said.

Sidh has been helping to establish a Small Business Administration loan office with the nonprofit Dundalk Renaissance in the community, where impacted businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans to see them through an unprecedented crisis. Affected jobs include the trucking, logistics and manufacturing industries, as well as restaurants and bars that rely on port workers for business. That SBA could set up an agency within a week is a positive sign of the coming assistance, he Sidh said.

On Monday, Gov. Wes Moore said the SBA had already received 57 applications for disaster loans; the offices will also offer help with unemployment benefits and other assistance.

“We anticipate there will be an impact, but because of how unforeseen these circumstances are, we are still trying to get our arms around it,” Sidh said.

While Sidh said the work has been a “real lift,” especially as he juggles two jobs, he said it’s gone smoothly because of the cooperation among the federal government, the state, the city, and the two affected counties. The jurisdictions have daily briefings and are in constant communication, he said.

Republican Todd Crandell, who represents Eastern Baltimore County, said he was impressed with the nearly all-Democratic state and federal leadership team’s response.

“There’s been no talk of any politics involved in any of this. There’s no partisanship. It’s, ‘Hey, we have a job to do now,’ whether you’re on the County Council, whether you are a U.S. senator, or a senator or delegate serving in the General Assembly, or the mayor of Baltimore or the county executive,” he said. “They all pulled together and it’s not one aspect of who’s going to take credit for what and your party needs to do this or none of that. It’s, ‘How do we do the jobs that we were elected to do?’”

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