State Virus Deathtoll Rises; Job Shutdowns Skyrocket Unemployment Numbers; Cecil County Gives Aid to Small Biz

April 2, 2020

The COVID-19 virus pandemic escalated its destructive path on Thursday (4/2/2020) as the Maryland death toll doubled in two days and out-of-work state and local residents filed massive new claims for unemployment benefits.

The state Health Department posted new figures on the number of confirmed cases Thursday morning, showing 2,331 Marylanders have tested positive for the virus and 36 people have died. On Tuesday, the death toll stood at 18, with 1,660 confirmed cases. The number of confirmed cases will no doubt rise significantly as the state, which was late to launch widescale testing, began drive-through testing programs on Wednesday at three Motor Vehicle emissions sites and FedEx field in Prince George’s County.

In Cecil County, which recorded its first fatality linked to the virus earlier this week, county health officials reported early Thursday afternoon that the number of confirmed cases of the virus stood at 23. The state Health Department’s report, posted several hours earlier, listed Cecil’s figure as 20 cases. The statewide report generally lags local county figures by a day or more.

Meanwhile, 84,230 Marylanders filed new unemployment claims last week, according to numbers released Thursday by Maryland’s Department of Labor– almost double the number of people who had filed the previous week. Nationwide, more than 6.648 million workers sought new unemployment benefits–twice the number of the previous week, according to the US Department of Labor.

In Cecil County, there were first-time claims for jobless benefits, on top of 665 new claims filed a week earlier. Last week’s report reflected the first significant impact from the virus and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s escalating orders declaring an emergency, shutting down schools and then closing bars, restaurants, “non-essential” businesses and banning any gathering of more than 10 people.

On Thursday, Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy announced two local programs to help small businesses affected by the state shutdown orders. “We are committed to ensuring Cecil County small businesses weather the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

The first program, which will be financed out of Cecil County’s casino VLT “impact aid” funds, will provide emergency “micro-grants” to tide over small businesses that have had a “significant financial hardship” due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses can apply for up to a $10,000 grant for working capital to cover payroll costs, rent or mortgage payments or utility bills. To qualify, the business must have employed 25 or fewer full-time employees.

The second program, the “Cecil Catalyst” loan program, will provide aid to small businesses that have faced “significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.” Loans can range from $5,000 up to a maximum of $75,000, however, the program will focus on loan requests of no more than $15,000. The money can be used for payroll expenses, rent or mortgage payments, materials and utility expenses. Loans will carry a fixed interest rate of 3 percent, but during the first year principal payments will not be required and interest-only payments can be made.

The county’s Department of Economic Development this week held an online-only small business workshop to outline various aid programs for local business owners through state and federal programs. Further information on state and federal business assistance programs relating to the economic impact of the virus outbreak can also be found on a special state website:

Meanwhile, Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) announced that, starting on Monday, 4/6/2020, school breakfasts and lunches will only be available from pick-up sites on Mondays and Wednesday, instead of on a daily basis. However, multiple meals will be provided each day to tide over students for several days so they will still be getting the same number of meals. The change is being made to limit staff exposure and comply with reduced workforces required by the state’s “stay home” directives.

On Monday, children will be given a breakfast and lunch for both Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, children will be given 3 breakfasts and 3 lunches for the remainder of the week. The times for the distribution will remain 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM and will still occur at the same sites. Families who are unable to pick up the meals from the designated school sites and a church location run by volunteers can arrange for other volunteers to pick up meals for them for home delivery.

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