BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin recently hosted a series of virtual conversations with Eastern Shore elected, education and manufacturing leaders about the regional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Including municipal officials, county schools superintendents, corporate executives and college and university presidents, the conversations aimed to identify critical community and business needs that could potentially be addressed at the federal level.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is stressing Maryland communities in ways that go far beyond the horrific public health impacts,” said Senator Cardin. “Our educational systems and local economic engines on the Eastern Shore are suffering tremendous setbacks as well, and we must find ways to overcome these challenges.”
Municipal officials pointed as principal concerns to persistent shortages in community access to COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment (PPE); ensuring emergency assistance reached the smallest small businesses; and looming budget shortfalls. Educators underscored the importance of high-speed internet connectivity; major challenges for staff retention; and difficulty re-organizing curricula and classrooms to accommodate social distancing requirements. Major manufacturers reported similar strains on their operations, with many relying on emergency loans and grants to avoid layoffs and closures.
“Being located in a tourist town, and reliant on traffic from visitors, festivals, and weddings, we expect to feel the effects of this pandemic for a very long time,” said Jaime Windon, CEO/Founder of LYON RUM. “As a distillery, we are lucky to be considered an essential business during this pandemic. For the last seven weeks we have devoted our operations to producing hand sanitizer — which gave us a sense of purpose and the ability to provide for our community. However, with our tasting room closed, and the vast majority of our staff laid off, we are down 90% in sales.”
“I thank Senator Cardin for his continued advocacy on behalf of our campus community. His unwavering support and constant communication have helped us navigate this difficult situation, and this meeting provided yet another opportunity for us to share our challenges and exchange ideas and solutions for our students, faculty and staff,” said Salisbury University President Charles A. Wight.
“The COVID-19 crisis is requiring transparency, by-the-minute communication and coordination and selfless cooperation between the various levels of government,” said Salisbury Mayor Jake Day. “Since day one of this crisis, we have had a partner in Senator Cardin. Both he personally and his staff have each communicated directly with us about our needs on the ground and his efforts to shape support from Washington.”