As the cliché goes, information is power. Few would argue this, but one could claim that information has a worthy competitor: time. Magical digital devices in our pockets can deliver the answer to mundane trivia when debating with friends, or display the weather radar when deciding if we should stay at the park. One should never underestimate the impact of required information delivered rapidly. But what about when information is more complicated than the American League Batting Champion in 1966? The answer is the Orioles’ own Frank Robinson by the way, hitting .316. It was a pitchers’ era. What if the sources of information are wide-ranging, or if you don’t even know exactly what you are looking for, but you know what the answer can deliver? This may seem esoteric, but it is a challenge facing many individuals or organizations seeking state assistance online. They know what they want in the end, but they don’t know what steps to take to get there, or even what resources can make those steps lighter. The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) developed InfoPortal to help.
The Maryland State Clearinghouse for Intergovernmental Assistance (commonly referred to as the Clearinghouse and managed by Planning) ensures that financial and non-financial assistance projects operating within Maryland are consistent with state and local plans, policies, and programs. This is accomplished by circulating requests for financial assistance, plans, and development projects to state, regional, and local public officials. The Clearinghouse developed InfoPortal in June of 2016 to provide a central, consolidated resource for over 700 financial, non-financial, and technical assistance programs offered by the State of Maryland. Are you an entrepreneur looking for a program to assist with market research as you expand your business? Try the ADVANCE Maryland Program. Are you a Community College graduate looking for a scholarship to transfer to Bowie State University with an Associate of Arts in Teaching degree? Try the AAT Scholarship Program. The InfoPortal has direct links to these resources and many more.
The InfoPortal is easy to navigate and staff updates it at least every six months. The user can filter assistance by agency, recipient eligibility, and type of assistance. See the image below for an explanation.
Let’s say, for example, that you are non-profit housing organization with a mission to improve the environmental health of moderate income neighborhoods. A key strategy is the abatement of lead based paint in older housing stock. Unfortunately, this year your organization did not win the big multi-family housing rehabilitation contract that typically funds your lead abatement programs. You decide to go on InfoPortal, choose the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development in the agency drop down menu, and select the Non-Profit and Project Grant boxes. This filters the unwieldy 749 total programs down to a much more manageable 11. When you click on the Lead Hazard Reduction Loan and Grant Program you notice that it provides a variety of funding options, from project grants to loans. Maybe that family, excited to have the lead hazards removed from their home this spring, does not have to wait until next year after all.
Planning understands that the layers of state government agency responsibility can be daunting and sometimes downright incomprehensible. Don’t worry, you are not alone. But we want to help point you in the right direction, even if our department does not have the answer itself. InfoPortal filters out the noise and brings some clarity when you need it most. Time and information, a powerful duo. You can access InfoPortal directly at planning.maryland.gov/OurWork/MarylandInfoPortal.shtml or through the Maryland.gov website. To learn more about InfoPortal, please contact Myra Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 767-4488.