Council President's Update: March 23, 2020

Sidney Katz Banner

Dear Resident,

Today Governor Larry Hogan ordered non-essential businesses in the state of Maryland to close by 5 p.m. to further the efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Restaurants and bars continue to provide delivery, carry-out and drive-thru services, and grocery stores, pharmacies and liquor stores remain open.

Governor Hogan also announced a $175 million relief package for workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In Montgomery County we are also working on an expedited financial assistance package that will be introduced tomorrow to provide $20 million in emergency grants and add $5 million for safety-net services. Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Labor also have launched the new COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund, which provides $7 million in funds to support Maryland small businesses and workers who are undergoing financial stress due to COVID-19.

Yesterday we learned of the first confirmed death associated with COVID-19 of a Montgomery County resident. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the woman who passed away. As the health experts have advised us from the start of this global pandemic, it is our seniors and those with preexisting health conditions who are most at risk from this insidious virus.

My colleagues and I at the Montgomery County Council want to express our deep and continuing gratitude to the first responders and medical professionals who are on the front lines each day protecting our community members. We are thankful to so many of our residents, including our very professional public health officials, small business owners and nonprofits making a difference in people’s lives, grocery store and restaurant workers, janitors and cleaning crews, and everybody else keeping our County in business during this trying time.

Last week, my colleagues and I called on banks, financial institutions and public utilities to institute a 60-day moratorium on customer defaults to help residents and businesses impacted financially by COVID-19. 

Below are some resources that I hope will be helpful to you:

Staying Safe

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services has a wealth of resources about COVID-19, including a frequently asked questions section that provides accurate information about how to minimize the risk of infection and spread of the virus. The Maryland Department of Health updates the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with other relevant data, every morning at 10 a.m. It also suggests important preparedness measures.



You can also visit the Department of Health and Human Services webpage for up-to-date information on the availability of COVID-19 medical testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also offers information about who should be tested.

Cancellations and Closures

This website contains up-to-date information about cancellations and closures of schools, departments and agencies, parks, libraries, public events and more. It also provides information on meals for students provided by Montgomery County Public Schools during the emergency closure of schools.



For assembled information and resources that local businesses may find helpful in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, you can visit the Maryland Business Express portal. The state of Maryland also offers COVID-19-related information for businesses here. Businesses can also apply for U.S. Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. The SBA will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses (including child day care centers) and non-profits that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.

Seniors and Vulnerable Communities

A list of grocery stores offering seniors-only shopping areas to reduce the risk of infection for Montgomery County’s elder community can be found here. More information for seniors and other vulnerable populations can be found here.


Tomorrow's Council Meeting

On the guidance of Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services Dr. Travis Gayles, there will be no public access to the Council Office Building through March 27. Exceptions will be made for members of the media and members of county government and outside agencies. Similar policies were implemented by the Maryland General Assembly and the U.S. Congress, as all levels of government are dealing with the response to COVID-19. The meeting will be streamed live here and on Facebook Live and can be watched on television: Xfinity/RCN 6 HD
996/1056 and Fios 30.

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
On March 24 at 12:30 p.m. the Council, sitting as the Board of Health, will receive an update on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the County’s efforts to protect public health and safety. Those expected to attend the meeting include the following: Dr. Travis Gayles, county health officer and chief of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Public Health Services; Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security; and Dr. Raymond Crowel, director, DHHS. You can read more here.

Emergency Relief Package for Local Employers and Vulnerable Residents
The Council will introduce an emergency grant program and funding for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic and additional funding for programs aimed at supporting vulnerable residents. The Public Health Emergency Grant Program, sponsored by all nine Councilmembers, will enable the County Executive to provide grant funding to small businesses and nonprofits that can demonstrate they’ve suffered financial distress as a result of the critical steps and mandated closures the County and State of Maryland have put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Public Health Emergency Grant Program also includes a microgrant fund to help local businesses and nonprofits purchase teleworking equipment and technology to use during the public health emergency. The Council will introduce two special appropriations on Tuesday to fund the $20 million Public Health Emergency Grant Program and to add $5 million for existing Department of Health and Human Services programs to help meet the increased funding need for safety-net programs directly serving vulnerable residents. The Council plans to approve the legislation and special appropriations on an emergency basis at its March 31 session, authorizing the County Executive to immediately implement these measures. Read more here.

Resolution to Restrain Operating Budget Spending to Fight COVID-19
Councilmember Nancy Navarro, who chairs the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, will introduce a resolution calling for the Council to exercise immediate spending restraint for operating budget items unrelated to the public health and safety needs associated with the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic or the economic recovery efforts associated with the world-wide pandemic that has severely impacted the lives of county residents and businesses. The Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution following its introduction. Council Vice President Tom Hucker and Councilmembers Andrew Friedson, Gabe Albornoz, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer are cosponsoring Councilmember Navarro’s resolution. Read more here

To read about other items on the Council agenda, click here.

Stay safe and look out for each other.


Council President Sidney Katz