Maryland has secured $70 million in new investments for initiatives aimed at protecting Marylanders from the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday.
The money comes as both Maryland and the nation at-large are experiencing a spike in new infections.
“Today we are announcing another $70 million in targeted investments utilizing CARES Act funding to further bolster our emergency response to this COVID-19 surge,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
He added: “First, we are adding another $20 million to continue building up our strategic stockpile of PPE (personal protective equipment). Federal officials have encouraged states to have 60-day supplies. But we are meeting and in many cases already exceeding our goal of stockpiling 90-day supplies of the most critical resources.”
Hogan described in detail how the remaining $50 million in funds will be used:
- $15 million for the Maryland Department of Labor to hire more staff, “ramp-up the call center,” provide better customer service management software, and bolster the department’s fraud protection programming
- $10 million for the state’s rental assistance program
- $10 million for the acquisition of vaccination supplies to be utilized once a vaccine is approved and made available
- $10 million for the Maryland Food Bank
- $2 million for foster care providers
- $2 million for the Maryland Department of Human Services to “increase call-handling capacity” and to extend the department’s hours of operation
- $1 million for an “innovative waste water sampling program” operated by the state’s departments of Health and Environment to “help detect COVID outbreaks in vulnerable populations.”
Hogan warned Marylanders to brace for a tough winter.
“The $70 million of new investments I’m announcing today will help us to protect the health and safety of even more Marylanders. Unfortunately, we have more tough times ahead of us, and it’s likely going to get worse before it gets better. But we truly are all in this together, and if we all do our part to rise to this challenge and meet this moment we will get through this together.”
Hogan noted that half of the of state’s 24 jurisdictions now have positivity rates above 5%. They include Allegheny, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Washington, Garrett, and Prince George’s counties. The governor also noted that the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state has increased 53% over past two weeks.
Hogan said that Maryland’s health metrics are better than that of 37 other states and he did not mandate any new restrictions on Thursday. However, Hogan intimated that he will not hesitate to do so if the number of COVID cases continues to rapidly climb.
There are 159,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Thursday morning according to the state’s Department of Health, and 4,112 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 5.65%, which is well above CDC recommended guidelines. Maryland has conducted nearly 3.8 million COVID-19 tests.