MACo Associate Director Andrea Mansfield testified in support of SB 891, legislation that would expand the definition of “qualified distressed county,” before the Senate Finance Committee. Under current law, to qualify as a “qualified distressed county” a county’s average unemployment rate must exceed 150% of the State average during the preceding 24 month period, or the county’s per capita personal income may not exceed 67% of the State ‘s average during the preceding 24 month period. Additionally, a qualified distressed county includes a county that does not meet either criteria, but has met at least one of the criteria at some point during the preceding 12-month period. This bill would extend the time frame to the preceding 24-month period, in an effort to reduce volatility in counties qualifying due to short-term fluctuations in these metrics.
A county designated as a “qualified distressed county” benefits from a number of economic development programs such as the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund, and the One Maryland Economic Development Tax Credit. These programs work in tandem to provide tax credits for business and financing assistance for economic development opportunities in qualified counties. SB 891 would assure that the current “qualified distressed counties” (Allegany, Caroline, Dorchester, Garrett, Somerset, and Worcester and Baltimore City) continue to benefit from these types of programs, as well as possibly expand these opportunities to other counties which may be struggling due to the difficult economy.