County Executive Robert R. Neall restored $53,700 in grants to 36 arts groups yesterday, half of the amount he withheld last fall to helpdeal with the county's massive budget shortfall.
The money, frozen in October when the county faced an $18 million loss in state aid, largely will help pay for each organizations' operating expenses, said Keren L. Dement, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Commission on Culture and the Arts.
Neall said that he hopes the balance of the grant money can restored by June 30.
Representatives of the groups said the grants are sorely needed because other forms of financial aid are drying up.
"It means more people will be able to take advantage of our programs," said Pamela McKee, vice president for finance of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, which will receive $8,500 of the original $17,000 earmarked for symphony operations.
She said state officials cut the symphony's grant amount from $17,500 to $15,000.
The county money will help pay for youth concerts at reduced ticket prices, she said.
Susan Still, director of outreach programs for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, said that the $5,000 award brings the organization one step closer to installing a listening system for the hearing-impaired at the hall at 801 Chase St. It also will help pay for children story theaters and cultural programs for the disabled and the poor, she said.
Other recipients include the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis ($8,250), the South County Cultural Arts group ($3,325) the Chesapeake Youth Symphony ($2,250) and the Community Outreach Foundation ($2,000).
The county also is withholding $157,000, or more than halfof the county's community promotion grants, which help finance programs at the Baltimore Zoo, the Maryland Historical Society and variouscounty agencies.
County officials say they must wait before deciding whether to release the rest of the grants.
"We're going to wait for a couple months yet to see what the state does, and what the economy does," said Steven E. Welkos, county budget officer.
The county faces a possible loss of $15 million in additional state aid as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed $142 million cut to local subdivisions.