ANNAPOLIS — All non-essential businesses in Maryland must close at 5 p.m. Monday according to Gov. Larry Hogan, who included the directive in his morning announcement from the State House.
The governor said the definition of a non-essential business would be whatever is not on the federal list of essential businesses. The list breaks it down further into sectors including chemical, commercial facilities, communications, defense, emergency, energy, financial, food and agriculture, government facilities, public health and health care, information technology, transportation, water and wastewater and supporting firms.
Hogan said he was upset watching Marylanders in large gatherings this weekend, which is against current national and Centers for Disease Control guidelines urging groups of no more than 10 in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus.
It “made my toes curl,” Hogan said in his press conference in Annapolis on Monday.
“We have not peaked,” he warned of the growing numbers of people that have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“Most of the increases we’ve seen is because we’ve ramped up testing.”
Hogan again urged people to take the shelter in place more seriously, although he stopped short of issuing an executive order restricting citizen movement.
“We are trying to save lives and save the economy,” he said. “We don’t think it’s draconian to ask people to stay in their homes.”
In the metropolitan areas hotels, stadiums, convention centers and formerly shuttered hospitals are being re-opened as temporary centers designed to increase the number of hospital beds available in the state. Hogan said law enforcement will likely be called on to conduct some measure of crowd control.
“They will probably be using their speakers to disperse crowds,” he hinted, adding there may also be police presence at larger stores to control how many people can be inside at one time.
Hogan also said the state won’t wait for the U.S. Congress to act, and announced several aggressive programs providing up to $175 million in grants and low-interest or no-interest loans to support small businesses, employees who have lost jobs or may be working less because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to encourage manufacturers to switch production toward essential medical supplies.
Calling it the “Business Relief Program,” Hogan said the two-fold program keeps small businesses supported for the duration of the shut down with the cost or rent or mortgage, payroll and supplies, and helps those workers with partial or total loss of income by maintaining health insurance, providing immediate unemployment insurance and assistance with food insecurity.
“We want to help small businesses with up to $50 million in flexible funding to help with operating costs and keep employees,” Hogan said. The Maryland Small Business COVID Relief Fund will supply up to $75 million for small businesses and non profits who have lost resources. Another $50 million will go into a grant program, providing up to $10,000 per applicant.
“We also have immediately developed a Small Business Fund for incentives to manufacture masks and other critically necessary supplies,” Hogan said.
Lastly, Hogan is pouring $40 million into existing financial programs to shore up these small businesses, which have been forced to shut down or scale back operations.
“We want to help them succeed and preserve these employers,” Hogan said.
Part of that success is cutting the red tape, assuring anyone who applies will have less paperwork to file and would get a response in 1-to 2 business days.
Beckie McMahan, part owner of C3ntral Tavern in Elkton, isn’t sure she would pursue any of these funds, but leaves the option open.
“We’re going to be feeling the effect of losing revenue in the first week or eight weeks” of the closures due to COVID-19. She said a state loan would be “just another bill we would have to pay.”
Like every other business in Cecil County McMahon says that catching up with the loss of revenue is something that they’re just going to have to do.
“I think all of us are going to have a lot of questions for ourselves for how to operate and reopen,” she said.
For more information on these state relief programs go to businessexpress.maryland.gov.