Friday Five | December 11, 2020

COVID-19 cases are surging in Maryland and across the country. The Maryland Department of Health regularly updates its data in order to keep Marylanders informed about trends in cases, hospitalizations, and other metrics. It is abundantly clear that we must remain vigilant in following federal, state, local, and CDC guidance. We must continue to work together to do the things necessary to slow the spread in order to keep Maryland open for business and on the road to recovery.

#MasksOnMaryland


Each Friday, the Maryland Chamber will bring you the top five news stories from the intersection of business and government. Here are this week’s top five stories.


 1. Governor Hogan Announces Business Loan Forgiveness and Unemployment Insurance Tax Relief

During his Thursday press conference, Governor Hogan announced an Executive Order to forgive $75 million in emergency business loans given out by the Maryland Department of Commerce. Additionally, the state is taking measures to prevent sharp increases in the unemployment insurance taxes employers will pay in 2021 as a result of the statewide shutdown and anemic economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In discussing the current surge in COVID-19 cases around the state, the Governor said that Maryland has had 20 straight days with more than 2,000 new cases and that 88% of staffed acute beds are occupied and 87% of ICU beds are occupied.

You can view the Executive Order here and the press release here.


 2. Unions Seek Added Worker Protections in Maryland

Titled the “Essential Workers Protection Act”, a bill backed by labor unions is being introduced during the 2021 Maryland legislative session to provide enhanced pay, free testing, sick and bereavement leave, and the right to refuse work under certain conditions. This legislation would impact the current coronavirus pandemic and future health emergencies.

Sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s), the bill is being championed by labor unions such as 1199 SEIU and other progressive and environmental groups. Since Del. Davis is Chairman of the House Economic Matters standing committee which has purview over labor related legislation the expectation is that this measure will receive serious consideration.

Read more here.


 3. Obstacles Still Preventing More COVID-19 Relief

Momentum to pass another COVID-19 relief deal seems to have stalled this week both between opposing parties and inside the Senate Republican caucus. The two major sticking points in the $906 billion deal proposed by a bipartisan group of legislators are the $160 billion in funding to state and local governments and the details of liability protection measures for schools and businesses. The Trump administration and Secretary Mnuchin have put together a $916 billion deal of their own which they offered to House Speaker Pelosi this week, she promptly rejected it.

Earlier in the week, Senate Majority Leader McConnell indicated a willingness to drop the liability protections from this relief bill if the Democrats would be willing to trade on the funding to state and local governments in an effort to get the deal through before the end of the year. However, both parties seem to remain committed to those proposals and with days waning before Congress heads home for the holidays, a deal may not get done before the next Congress takes over. Read more here.

On December 4, the Maryland Chamber sent a letter to Maryland’s congressional delegation urging them to support an additional COVID-19 relief package addressing legal liability protections, funding for state and local governments, unemployment insurance, and support for small businesses and nonprofits. View the letter here.


 4. Restaurant Closings Top 110,000 Nationally

The National Restaurant Association has reported that more than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This new figure, up from 100,000 in September, represents the closure of one in six restaurants across the country. The National Restaurant Association is talking about these numbers and other results from their recent survey hoping to show Congress why it’s important for them to act now on a relief measure to support the industry.  

Additional survey results include almost 90% of full-service restaurants reporting declines, with revenue falling 36% on average. Expenses are also climbing amid the pandemic, with 59% of operators saying their total labor costs as a percentage of sales are higher than they were pre-pandemic. 

With many places putting added restrictions in place and colder weather hampering outdoor dining, the fear is that more establishments will continue to close their doors. Find out more here 


5. Frederick Gym Owner Starts Bear the Burden Coalition 

The founder and CEO of SoldierFit gym in Frederick has started a coalition to mobilize hundreds of small businesses over coronavirus related restrictions. Called the Bear the Burden Coalition, Danny Farrar started the group to push back against what he considers to be business restrictions that are unfair to “mom and pop” shops.

“We’re all for social distancing, we’re all for wearing the masks, we’re all for — COVID is real and we need to … treat it as such,” Farrar said. “We’re just not for a different set of rules for two different people playing the [same] game … if small businesses have to go to 50 percent capacity, cool, we’ll go to 50 percent capacity. [But] Walmart has got to go to 50 percent capacity and enforce it.”

Since starting the coalition, the group has grown to more than 1,000 members on Facebook, many of which are small business owners in Frederick County and the region. You can read more here.


Check out our Maryland Chamber Events Page for all of our Upcoming Webinars, Briefings, and Sponsored Events!


Upcoming calendar of legislative briefings and hearings

MondayDecember 14, 2020 

  • 10:00 a.m. – Task Force on the Economic Future of Western Maryland  
  • 12:00 p.m. – Maryland Economic Development Commission  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 

  • 9:00 a.m.  Motor Vehicle and Transportation Subcommittee 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 

  • 10:00 a.m. – Board of Public Works 

Wearing a mask in public lets us live life more safely. And it keeps you and everyone around you better protected from coronavirus. The more we mask together, the faster we get back to enjoying life…together. So, just carry on, masks on, Maryland.

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