- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt announced Wednesday that he anticipates nearly $800 million in lost revenue over the next four fiscal years due to reduced economic activity from the coronavirus pandemic.

The District is estimated to lose almost $212 million in revenue for fiscal year 2021, which starts Thursday, nearly $210 million for 2022, $190 million for 2023 and $170 million for 2024. The anticipated drop in revenue mostly is due to forecasted weaker earnings from sales and deed taxes.

However, for fiscal 2020, the District collected $222 million more in revenue than projected in April due to federal relief provided earlier this year.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said because of the city’s solid financial management over the last decade or two, the District is in a better position to weather the coming storm.

“But nonetheless, this is not a pretty picture,” Mr. Mendelson said, adding that over the next two weeks officials will have to determine the next steps to be taken.

Overall, the District is ending fiscal 2020 with a revenue loss of $334 million.

“We’re in a COVID-induced recession. I don’t know how anyone could debate that. The federal program actually helped the scars to not be as deep. And so the question is, what is the federal government going to do?” Mr. DeWitt said.

Under the House’s proposed stimulus package, the District would receive an additional $755 million in aid that the city was “shortchanged” in June, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

The CARES Act provided $1.25 billion in aid to states, but Miss Bowser said the District received only $495 million. Although the District is generally treated like a state when it comes to federal funding, the mayor noted that was not the case when it came to coronavirus relief funds.

Due to COVID-19 this spring, D.C. officials instituted a hiring and spending freeze and cut $190 million from agency budgets, among other actions. Officials last month submitted a $16.9 billion fiscal 2021 budget to Congress for approval, which is $1.5 billion higher than the approved budget for the previous year.

In Maryland, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that revenue estimates for the state are almost $1 billion less than what was budgeted prior to the coronavirus pandemic. However, he added that Maryland’s fiscal situation is “significantly less painful” than it could have been due to “early and aggressive actions.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented fiscal crisis for state and local governments nationwide, which according to Moody’s Analytics will face $500 billion in shortfalls over the next two fiscal years, with more than 4 million jobs at stake,” Mr. Hogan said in a statement.

Mr. Hogan implemented a budget and hiring freeze and recommended budget cuts across all state agencies nearly six months ago after dire projections of state revenue estimates. Maryland was able to keep more than 70% of its economy open throughout the pandemic unlike many states, according to the governor.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery County Council on Thursday will hold a public hearing and vote on an amended executive order that would give more flexibility to restaurants and bars.

The amended order would allow food service venues with no previous history of citations or closings due to COVID-19 violations to apply for a permit that would allow alcohol to be served from 10 p.m. to midnight.

To receive a permit, a food service venue must designate a staff member or hire a contractor to monitor and enforce face covering and social distance requirements, guarantee all alcoholic beverages are collected from patrons and off all tables by midnight and suspend the sale or provision of alcoholic beverages after 12 a.m.

Frequent and unscheduled inspections of food venues would be conducted for a late-night alcohol sales program permit. Venues that violate permit requirements will immediately lose their permit and license to sell alcohol and could face fines up to $20,000.

However, officials will automatically suspend the late-night alcohol sales program if Montgomery County’s three-day test positivity average surpasses 3.25%, three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeds 100, the COVID-19 positive contacts associated with indoor and outdoor dining is greater than 3% combined and more than 10% of inspected participants receive a citation, permit revocation and order to close.

The county’s current test positivity rate is 2.6%, the same as Maryland’s statewide rate. The District had a 1.6% test positivity rate as of Saturday, the most recent health data shows.

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