Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Monday that he has issued an executive order to close all non-essential businesses in Maryland by 5 p.m. EDT tonight in order to control the spread of the coronavirus. Hogan said he made the decision because many Marylanders are not adhering to social-distancing practices required under previous executive orders. There are now 288 confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland.
“This morning I have enacted an executive order which closes all non-essential businesses, organizations, establishments and facilities in Maryland effective at 5 o’clock today,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
“In addition to those businesses which have already been closed by our prior executive orders, this new executive order closes all those businesses not covered by federal guidelines which were issued Thursday by the federal government as defined as critical infrastructure sectors — including health care and food and agriculture, energy, public works, community-based government operations — and the defense and industrial base sectors — law enforcement, public safety, transportation, critical manufacturing, financial services, and water and waste-water.”
Hogan emphasized that he did not issue a “shelter-in-place” order as several jurisdictions across the country have. A shelter-in-place order requires residents to stay at home with special exceptions such as visiting grocery stores, pharmacies and medical providers.
“Let me be clear: We are not issuing or ordering a shelter-in-place directive or forcing people to stay home. However, we are telling all Marylanders to follow all of the directives we’ve already issued and to follow state law against crowds of more than 10 people. And we are telling you: Unless you have an essential reason to leave your house — then you should stay in your homes.”
Hogan, who is chair of the National Governors Association, said the federal government has been helpful in some areas but not others. Hogan said he will address those concerns in a teleconference call scheduled for this afternoon with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the nation’s governors. Pence is in charge of the White House’s Coronavirus Response Team. Congress is currently debating a $2 trillion stimulus package that would provide $300 billion to help small businesses affected by the virus. The Senate took a procedural vote on the legislation this afternoon but it failed.
“While we’ve seen some progress on some of these requests — including the invoking of Title 32 , so that FEMA can cover the cost of the National Guard’s relief missions and giving us the flexibility, and some progress on increasing efforts to ramp up the production of and delivery of PPE’s [personal protective equipment] and necessary equipment, and on extending the deadline for the 2020 Census — we’re still waiting for additional action on Title 32 for all of the states, and still pushing for the extension of the Real ID and we’re still pushing very hard for major economic stimulus and for monies to go directly to the states so that we can help these businesses and individuals that are impacted-and there’s still no action on that.”
Hogan said the state is taking action to help small businesses.
“We’re immediately launching a $175 million comprehensive business relief program here in Maryland. This will bring together resources from two of our key state agencies: the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Maryland Department of Labor-to help hard-pressed Marylanders and small businesses-help them get through this difficult period.”
Hogan announced today that the state is launching three funds to assist small businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus:
- The COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund will provide an additional $7 million “to help small businesses retain their employees during this crisis,” Hogan said.
- The Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Loan Fund will provide $75 million in loans of up to $50,000 to for-profit businesses with fewer than 50 employees that have lost revenue due to the virus.
- The Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Fund has $50 million for “direct immediate grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses that have lost revenue because of the coronavirus,” the governor said.
Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz said the state must take action to help small businesses before it is too late.
“If we do not act to support our business community during this emergency, then the economic risk to our industries, our small-business employers and — above all — the livelihoods of Maryland residents will linger —even after we hit the downside of the curve and the pressure on our health care system eases. Our small businesses must survive and our people must have jobs they can return to when things return to normal. So we’re acting now to ensure that.”
Donald Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee — a non-profit organization that represents 500 businesses and other institutions throughout the Baltimore region— called the governor’s decision to close non-essential businesses “an unfortunate but necessary move to help stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).”
“Hopefully, by imposing these steps along with the public’s strict adherence to the current restrictions on activities and by closely following the advice of health care providers, the closures will be as short-lived as possible and businesses will be able to reopen and return to regular operations,” Fry said in a statement.