As you’re aware, there have been many changes in the past few days as the State is making decisions on how to best combat the spread of coronavirus. Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson have decided to take the unprecedented, but necessary, measure to adjourn the 2020 Legislative Session Sine Die on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The General Assembly will likely reconvene in May for a special session to address any additional urgent legislative matters. In these final few days of Session, the General Assembly has prioritized completing our constitutional obligation of passing the budget as well as passing emergency legislation to protect Marylanders during this emergency.
This email outlines the steps taken by the General Assembly and the Governor and lists a number of available resources. At this time, we must take extreme measures to protect Marylanders. I know this can be scary, but I also know that we are a strong community of good people, who will look out for one another and take the necessary steps to keep each other safe.
COVID-19 Emergency Legislation
House and Senate leadership, the Governor and all state agencies are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat. Speaker Adrienne Jones took immediate legislative action and introduced two COVID-19 bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency:
1. HB 1661: State Budget – Revenue Stabilization Account Transfers – Coronavirus: This bill provides the Governor with up to $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to help respond to the public health threat.
2. HB 1663: COVID–19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020: This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat:
Allows the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19;
Changes the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits;
Eliminates co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing;
Requires the Maryland Department of Health to cover the cost of COVID–19 testing and any associated costs not paid for by insurance or another third party;
Covers the cost of COVID–19 immunization should it become available;
Waives certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online;
Requires the Maryland Department of Health to reimburse patients for telehealth services related to COVID–19;
Prevents retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel and medicine;
Prohibits employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19.
The Speaker and Senate President have established a special workgroup, the Joint Committee on the COVID-19 Response, to monitor the effects of the virus and advise the General Assembly on the steps to take to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Business and Unemployment Resources and Healthcare Coverage
Maryland Department of Commerce has been working with other State Agencies to provide information on resources available to Maryland businesses and employers. Resources include information on Worker & Employer Assistance, Financial Assistance & Taxes, and Licensing & Permitting. You can find the full info regarding state & federal resources for businesses here.
The United States Department of Labor has increased flexibility to state governments to provide unemployment assistance to residents who lose their employment due to COVID-19. You can find information to apply for Maryland Unemployment Insurance here.
In response to COVID-19, Maryland Health Connection has opened a new healthcare enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders. The enrollment period begins Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, April 15. Healthcare coverage will begin on April 1, 2020. Find more information here.
Montgomery County has a new Resources for Business webpage. The site includes guidance and links to information and services to help local businesses dealing with the effects of COVID-19. Business owners will find a COVID-19 business fact sheet, best practices in the workplace, information about how to address customer service challenges, and a frequently asked questions and answers section. New Developments
Gatherings of more than 50 people, including social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings, are prohibited at all locations and venues
All bars and restaurants are to close in the state, as well as fitness centers, spas, and theaters, effective at 5:00 p.m. today. The order allows for restaurants to continue carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery services, and allows for eateries in health care facilities to remain open
Electric, gas, water, sewage, phone, cable TV, and internet service provider companies are prohibited from shutting off any residential customer’s service, or charging any residential late fees
Maryland courts are prohibited from ordering the eviction of any tenant who can show that their failure to pay rent was the result of COVID-19—for examples, because of lost or reduced unemployment, or needing to care for a school-aged child—or because they are diagnosed with, or under investigation for, COVID-19
For a complete list of actions the state is taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak, visit: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/12/governor-hogan-announces-major-actions-to-protect-public-health-limit-spread-of-covid-19-pandemic/ Montgomery County Updates MC DHHS’s COVID page
Closures in Montgomery County The following closures and cancellations are in effect:
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) – Closed March 16 – March 27
County Buildings – Public activities cancelled March 14 – 31
Community Use of MCPS Facilities:
Indoor community use of MCPS facilities – closed March 14 – March 31. All SAT testing scheduled for middle and high schools will continue as scheduled.
All outdoor community use of MCPS facilities – closed March 16 – March 31.
Childcare use of MCPS facilities – Decision to open or close will be made by the individual childcare providers.
Libraries – Closed March 16 – March 27.
Senior Centers – closed until further notice.
Recreation Centers and Aquatic Centers – Closed March 16 – March 27.
Montgomery Parks – March 16 – March 31.
Supporting Small Businesses in Montgomery County
More than 95% of businesses in Montgomery County are small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Supporting our County’s small, independent, locally-owned business community is especially important in this time of crisis. Here are some ideas to support our local businesses:
Restaurants: Order your meals online, through an app, or take out.
Services (hair and nail salons, yoga studios): Buy gift certificates now to use in the future.
Entertainment venues (local theaters): Buy tickets or gift certificates now for performances later.
How do I know if I should be tested?
If you start to experience symptoms, call your healthcare provider. The physician or practitioner will assess your symptoms, ask about your travel history and whether you have been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. With that information, they will determine if diagnostic testing for the COVID-19 virus is appropriate. If your health care provider suspects COVID-19, they will coordinate testing with the local and state health departments. If you would like to speak with a nurse, call 240-777-1755. For more information on testing, click here.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Shortness of breath
In more severe cases, pneumonia (infection in the lungs)
The vast majority of people recover from this infection. Most people will have mild or moderate symptoms. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for more serious illness. Request an Absentee Ballot
Request an Absentee Ballot for Maryland’s upcoming primary election on Tuesday, April 28th. Absentee ballots are easy to request and fill out. Visit the Maryland State Board of Election’s website here to request an absentee ballot by Tuesday, April 21.
Fill Out the 2020 Census
As Marylanders stay home over the next several weeks, now is a great time to fill out the 2020 Census, which is incredibly important for receiving federal resources. From March 12 – March 20, every household will receive a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau with instructions on how to complete the Census. Learn more here.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you need any additional help. Due to these recent developments, email is the best point of contact for now at: email@example.com. Onward, Lorig Charkoudian