Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam got together for a virtual forum Friday to talk about COVID-19, the need for another pandemic stimulus package and regional cooperation on issues such as transportation.
We agree that another stimulus program needs to come out of Washington. That effort needs to have a heavy focus on helping small businesses, nonprofits and others on the frontlines of the pandemic and its economic fallouts.
We realize that another COVID stimulus program unfortunately will not be coming out the federal government until after the presidential election. Politics rules everything these days.
Many small businesses on the Shore, especially restaurants, are already on the brink of extinction because of the coronavirus pandemic. The clock is ticking on many of them and the workers they employ. Hogan announced Friday that restaurants could expand their indoor capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent starting Monday, Sept. 21. This is a good and needed move.
Hogan also said during the regional forum between 30 percent and 50 percent of small businesses could go under.
The governor is right.
Imagine downtown Easton or St. Michaels or any office park or shopping center without half its tenants.
That is why we need to see immediate action to help small businesses and local nonprofits providing essential services survive. The efforts should be regional and local.
We know state and local budgets are going to be severely cash strapped because of COVID-19. We also know another round of help from Congress is not coming soon.
Hogan, Northam and Bowser talked up regional cooperation during the virtual forum including on issues such as transportation.
We need to see that extend to jobs and helping businesses in pandemic peril. Community groups and nonprofits who provide essential services also need help.
Here on the Shore, a regional effort needs to be launched involving local communities, the private sector as well as Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. The shock of the pandemic is no longer an excuse of lack of ideas, lack of action.
New job numbers show Maryland and the region are adding back jobs. But there are still significant jobs losses.
Maryland is down 175,800 jobs from last August. Delaware is down 40,800 jobs and Virginia is down 212,600 jobs from a year ago.
Those are not just numbers. Those are people’s jobs, livelihoods, their rent and mortgage payments, their grocery bills.
We know elected officials are worried about looming budget deficits especially if there is not a fiscal lifeline from the federal government. That will impact state and local budgets and services on the Shore and in other communities.
But an immediate focus needs to be on helping small businesses and jobs. We need to see some new ideas, some new innovative efforts on this front.
Talking about regional cooperation, or supporting local businesses or bashing Congress or President Donald Trump is the easy part.
Talk is also cheap. We need action and results now.