“Winter is coming.”
Those were the words of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot during the Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Franchot was not talking about “Game of Thrones” or the coming winter weather. He was talking about the perilous future for many small businesses, restaurants and jobs here on the Eastern Shore and throughout the state as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy.
Franchot is pushing hard for a $585 million fund balance the state has at its disposal to be used to help small businesses immediately. Franchot said many small businesses and jobs are in jeopardy in the near term and the state should be move quickly to help them.
We strongly concur.
All the shutdowns, social distancing and consumer and business spending pullbacks stemming from COVID-19 decimated the economy and jobs. Maryland is down 162,200 jobs from Sept. 2019 to Sept. 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state has recouped some of the jobs lost from the start of the pandemic.
But we will lose more jobs and small businesses if some dynamics do not change.
We know another coronavirus stimulus package will not be coming out of Washington until at least after the election and maybe the next inauguration. A so-called new “skinny” COVID stimulus bill would help workers and households with a monthly payment that would help them pay the bills and stay financially afloat.
But the political and partisan realities put the impetus on states and communities to do what they can to help with the economic wounds of the virus.
The $585 million fund Franchot is referencing is not allocated. We agree that it should go straight to small businesses. Those local businesses are the backbones of our communities and create jobs across the Shore and state.
They have been hit hard by the pandemic and many small businesses are teetering on the edge of extinction. They need help now.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced a new $10 million effort to help poultry and other farms during his visit to the Shore on Monday, Oct. 19. Hogan could also soon announce another new effort to help restaurants and other businesses.
The U.S. Department of Commerce and Trump administration are also allocating $300 million to fisheries across the country, including $4.15 million for the industry in Maryland.
Those are all good moves and Hogan has put a focus on the economic side of COVID.
We just need to see more immediate action at every level of government to help save jobs and recoup lost ones.
That means some aggressive and creative new efforts at the local levels including economic development groups and chambers of commerce. We need new energy at the grassroots of our communities. This also means ideas from entrepreneurs, the arts community, nonprofits and residents.
We hope for the gridlock in Washington to break, and a new stimulus bill gets passed that helps workers and small businesses who are on the firing line and in survival mode.
We know Annapolis and other state capitals are bracing for major COVID-induced budget deficits next year.
But the need for small businesses, restaurants and jobs is immediate.
Franchot recognizes that and the state should follow suit and earmark money immediately to help save Main Street — to help save jobs.