BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee, recently concluded a series of conversations with leaders from rural localities across Maryland about the ways in which Maryland can best achieve its public health and economic recovery goals. Cardin and the local tourism and economic development officials discussed a wide range of concerns related to COVID-19 closures and re-openings, including issues related to inadequate coronavirus testing, federal small business programs, unemployment compensation, labor shortages, liability protections and broadband internet connectivity. The senator and participants also discussed potential strategies for making up significant shortfalls in county and municipal budgets impacted by lost economic activity resulting from COVID-19 quarantines.
“In rural parts of Maryland, small businesses and tourism are the backbone of the local economy, and we must find safe and creative ways to bolster their strength,” said Senator Cardin. “By focusing federal relief and stimulus on the smallest small businesses and nonprofits, establishing a national testing and contact tracing strategy, and by taking decisive steps to ensure that even our most rural communities are well served by broadband internet, we can begin to seed – and speed – a lasting, statewide recovery effort.”
“Tourism/hospitality has been one of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic. The shutdown means no revenue is coming in for these businesses and thousands of workers are unemployed. For a community like Garrett County that is heavily dependent on tourism, the impacts are devastating,” said Nicole Christian, President and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. “Add on top of that the lack of broadband and high-speed internet, and our community has been dealt a crushing blow. The residents of Garrett County are strong and resilient, but there is no way we can recover without assistance from the federal government. Having the opportunity for an open dialogue with our congressional delegates, like the one we had with Senator Cardin earlier this week, helps to talk through the true impacts of the crisis and work together on solutions. It’s the only way we will rebuild our economy.”
“Dorchester County – like many rural regions – is fortunate that generations of resilient watermen, farmers, manufacturers and small business owners form our backbone. Unfortunately, our historic county seat of Cambridge, with its numerous shops and restaurants, has been particularly hit by the quarantine’s business closures,” said Susan Banks, Director of the Dorchester County Economic Development Office. “As with any crisis, existing challenges were exacerbated. For example, the shutdown peaked at the beginning of our iconic crab season. With restaurants closed, travel severely limited and processors unable to obtain HB2 visas, the seafood supply chain was ruptured. However, we are a strong community and our rural location has been a silver lining for several businesses who continued operations, with some gaining new customers or adopting new business models. As we reopen, I am confident Dorchester County will emerge more adaptive, innovative and strategic to keep our rural economy moving forward.”
“In the early stages of recovery local travel, road trips and outdoor recreation will be perceived as safe and people will participate in it. These activities will be challenging to monetize until food and beverage, retail and lodging rebound,” said Daniel P. Spedden, President of the Hagerstown/Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Large entertainment venues like stadiums and theaters will need long- term financial aid because they will be slow to reopen and to gain acceptance. We want these tourism assets back online when it is safe to do so.”
“Questions regarding PPP funding, CARES Act provisions, and the acute need for Chambers of Commerce to be included in CARES Act funding were among the key topics Senator Cardin addressed today,” said Mike Dunn, President and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee. “We thank Senator Cardin for today’s meeting. He and his staff have been fully engaged with constituents throughout the COVID crisis.”
“We truly appreciate any and all the assistance that has been provided to our local residents and communities during these challenging times,” said Daniel Thompson, Executive Director, Somerset County Economic Development. “Our local small businesses, which include a rich heritage of watermen and farmers, will continue to need assistance in bringing back the vitality of their labor and to foster hope in fulfilling their dreams.”
“Talbot County’s businesses are reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. From total closures to teleworking, they’ve all experienced a paradigm shift of some kind. There is no one-size fits all remedy for this global crisis,” said Cassandra Vanhooser, Economic Development & Tourism Director, Talbot County. “I am grateful that Senator Cardin takes the time to listen to our businesses and understand their challenges.