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.
Beginning Friday, July 31 at 5:00 pm, all Marylanders age 5 and above will be required to wear masks or face coverings in all public spaces of businesses and outdoor public areas. Governor Hogan announced the heightened measures during his afternoon press conference on Wednesday, July 29.
The increased measures are coming in the wake of surging COVID-19 cases nationally and a recent uptick in Maryland, particularly among Marylanders under age 40. As of July 30th, the state’s positivity rate was 4.77%, which is better than that of most states in the country but is still higher than Maryland has experienced in recent weeks.
The governor also highlighted data from the state’s contact tracing efforts which identified which activities Marylanders who tested positive for the virus had most engaged in. For those testing positive, 44% attended a family gathering, 23% attended house parties and 21% participated in outdoor activities.
Additionally, Governor Hogan ordered the Maryland Department of Health to issue a public health advisory to discourage travel to and from states that have a positivity rate of 10% or higher including: Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska and Idaho.
You can view the entire press conference here.
2. Gov. Hogan joins other governors in asking for federal civil liability protections for businesses
In a letter dated July 21, Governor Hogan joined 20 other GOP governors in asking congressional leaders to pursue COVID-related civil liability protections for businesses. The governors asked for federal action in implementing liability measures to protect businesses, health care workers, and schools from unreasonable COVID-19 related claims.
Liability protection measures for businesses reopening in the COVID economy has been a top priority for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce since early in the pandemic. It was a policy proposal listed in the Chamber’s ReNEW Maryland Initiative originally released in early May. Maryland employers have continued to voice their concerns about potential lawsuits and COVID-related claims and the impact that these would have on their economic recovery.
Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly have already signaled their concern over the initiative. Earlier this week, Senator Will Smith (D-Montgomery) was quoted as saying, “It opens the door to the minority of nefarious actors who would then be protected when acting in a less-than-responsible manner.”
The Maryland Chamber will continue to advocate for civil liability protections for Maryland businesses that are taking the appropriate and necessary steps to protect their employees and the public. Our government affairs team will provide updates as action at the federal and state level on this issue unfolds.
3. Liability protections at the center of federal relief talks
Negotiations between House and Senate leadership seems to be hitting a wall over the debate surrounding liability protections for businesses, schools, and health care providers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, “There is no chance, zero chance, America can get back to normal without the Cornyn liability protection, and no bill will be put on the Senate floor that does not include it.” However, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have signaled that there will not be a deal on a broader package unless the Senator McConnell backs down.
The Senate Republican’s HEALS Act includes another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans with some slight changes and a decrease in the federal unemployment payments from $600 a week to $200 a week. Additionally, the package includes $100 billion in funding for education, $190 billion in renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses, the extension of forbearance payment for federally backed mortgages, and additional funding for more COVID-19 testing.
Beyond an agreement on liability protections, a large chasm still stands between the $1 trillion HEALS Act and the $3 trillion HEROS Act, a major component being aid to state and local governments.
4. Maryland Work Share Unemployment Insurance Program; Webinar and other upcoming MDCC events
223 businesses have now been approved to participate in the Maryland Department of Labor’s Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance Program. Established by the Maryland General Assembly in 1984, this critical program is designed to avoid layoffs by preserving jobs for current employees and to assist businesses that have already undertaken layoffs to reopen and resume operations gradually. As Marylanders continue to navigate challenges related to COVID-19, this program helps preserve jobs by providing employers with a flexible alternative to layoffs. Employees can be retained at reduced hours while collecting partial unemployment benefits to make up a portion of the lost wages.
Employers who participate in the Work Sharing program can retain employees by temporarily and equally reducing the hours of work by 20% to 50%, either for their entire business or for select units. By maintaining an experienced staff, they can resume business operations safely and effectively without the challenge of recruiting, hiring, and training employees. Employees reap the benefits of this program by keeping their current job, and often their health and retirement benefits, while receiving partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their wages.
Learn more about the Work Sharing program or apply here.
Webinar | Maryland’s Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance Work Sharing Program: A guide for employers
Join us for a webinar on Thursday, August 13th from 10-11am to learn more about the Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance Program.
We will be joined by representatives from the Maryland Department of Labor, Governor’s Workforce Development Board and employers utilizing the program who will provide an overview on both employer and employee benefits, requirements, and how to participate.
Other Maryland Chamber of Commerce Upcoming Events:
2020 Congressional Roundup – Virtual
On September 9th, starting at 10:00 am, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its annual Congressional Roundup. Do not miss the opportunity to hear directly from policy experts and Maryland’s congressional delegation regarding the current legislative and electoral landscape and how it intersects with the challenges presently being faced by the business community. Through this virtual event, attendees will also have the opportunity to ask questions and to convey their concerns directly to lawmakers.
Current confirmed members of Maryland’s congressional delegation include:
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD4)
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD8)
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD2)
Rep. David Trone (D-MD6)
All other members of Maryland’s delegation have been invited.
Thank you to our supporting sponsor:
Thank you to our federated partner sponsor:
If you have any questions, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact Whitney Harmel at email@example.com or (410) 269-0642, ext. 1117. For more information on upcoming webinars and other events, please visit our events page.
5. Take the COVID-19 Impact Survey
CLOSING TODAY. Today is the last day to complete our COVID-19 Impact Survey. We will use this survey data to support our ReNEW Maryland initiatives, which are intended to help put businesses and employees back to work.
Also, please share the survey with your membership and other business partners. Your responses will play a vital role in advancing the Chamber’s advocacy efforts at the federal level and help us better prepare for the 2021 state legislative session.
Upcoming Calendar of Legislative Briefings and Hearings
Monday, August 3, 2020
Thursday, August 6, 2020