Elrich Dedicates $20 Million to Aid Small Businesses

County Executive Marc Elrich Friday morning announced the creation of an emergency economic assistance fund designed to help small business owners, their employees and others who are losing money due to coronavirus.

“We are going to look to put aside $20 million for small business and another $5 million for food assistance,” Elrich said as he stood in front of McGinty’s Public House Restaurant in Silver Spring.

“This is a start” in the county’s efforts to keep businesses operating during these times when most people are staying indoors and not frequenting area businesses.

It also is designed to help businesses “when this crisis begins to ebb and things go back to normalishness.”

If businesses stay open because rent payments and other bills temporarily are deferred, it will not help them survive if all those bills come due right away, he said.

Elrich said he is working with Gov. Larry Hogan to come up with grants and loans that aren’t due for awhile in order to make sure the county and business owners recover from this economic downturn.

“We are going to look at everything we can lower, reduce or waive temporarily to help people get through this,” he said.

Elrich also announced that MedStar Health is working with the owner of the White Flint Mall in order to set up a drive through test site for people with symptoms.

Also, during the news conference, County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Travis Gayles noted that as of Friday morning, there were 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, 51 of which are in Montgomery County.

On Thursday, there were 33 confirmed cases in the county. Gayles attributed the rise to more people being tested.

“There is nothing to suggest there is a cluster or a large-scale exposure” in Montgomery County, he said.

Of the 149 cases, only 15 patients had to be hospitalized, he said, noting that the vast majority were recovering in their own homes with “mild to moderate symptoms.”

The most important thing people can do to stop the spread is practice social distancing, meaning they should be at least six feet apart from other people, both Elrich and Gayle said.

Throughout the conference, Gayles, Elrich and Council Vice President Tom Hucker stood adhered to that policy.

“Use common sense. Don’t congregate,” Elrich said, adding that using county parks is fine, but stay away from the pavilions and playground equipment.

Many county employees are working at home but are still active, especially social workers and those who fill out claims for food and rental assistance, he noted.

Elrich and Montgomery County Public School officials are trying to get a waiver from the state to allow health clinics in schools to become available. These clinics are located such that people will not have to go into the school to enter them, he said.

The county also is seeking ways for small businesses that aren’t busy now to produce some of the supplies that are needed, like hand sanitizers and facial masks.

“I know we have today to think about, but we’ve got to start thinking about the day after,” Elrich said.

“We are all in this together and that is the important thing.”

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About Suzanne Pollak

Suzanne is a freelance reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She has over 35 years professional experience writing for newspapers, magazines, non-profit newsletters and the web.

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