Message from the County Executive
I hope you had safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. For many of us, it was the first time in more than a year that we were able to interact more freely with friends, family and neighbors.
This week marked the beginning of the Montgomery County Public Schools high school graduation season, and it is great that we can return to in-person ceremonies. I remember my own graduation from Einstein High School many years ago, and I remember what an exciting day that was. I want to congratulate all of the graduates and their families. I know how it important it is, and how nice it is, to be able to do this in-person again.
It is incredible that after 15 months, we are finally re-emerging from the COVID-19 health crisis. We tied our reopening to vaccination rates, and thanks to tremendous efforts by so many, more than 58 percent of our total residents have received both doses of Pfizer/Moderna or a single dose of the J & J vaccine, according to CDC data. Almost 75 percent of adults over age 18 have had both doses, and 89 percent of our residents 65 or older have received both doses. That is amazing progress.
While this is great news and it has enabled us to return to a more interactive way of life, our fight to beat COVID-19 is not over.
We continue to make every effort to bring the vaccine to people. We are setting up clinics in churches, at schools and other places where people are. We are partnering with the Maryland Soccerplex in Germantown to set up a vaccination clinic there for this upcoming weekend. We are sending text messages and have volunteers in the streets talking to people about getting vaccinated. We even sponsored a video contest for students to encourage their peers to get vaccinated for cash prizes. We will continue our efforts as long as they are needed.
I am also happy to report that our libraries and senior centers are reopening. While some of our facilities are still being used for other purposes, many have reopened or will be reopening soon. I stopped by the Silver Spring Library earlier this week and it was great to see library patrons inside, and the staff was excited to be returning to their pre-pandemic work.
As we reopen, we will continue our focus on economic recovery.
From business and nonprofit grants to food resources to rental relief payments, I am proud of the work we have done to assist Montgomery County families, businesses and workers.
I was very disappointed with this week’s announcement from Governor Hogan to put an early end to enhanced Federal unemployment benefits. This Federal money has been an enormous help to many of our unemployed workers, including those in the gig economy who would not usually qualify for unemployment benefits. This decision is especially concerning because the American Rescue Plan provides funding for the benefits through Sept. 6—in other words, the State is refusing federal dollars for our residents.
Many of our residents, by no fault of their own, lost their jobs and earnings to this pandemic. They still have families to feed and bills to pay. Additionally, these dollars do not cost the County a penny and they help our residents. I am not the only one who finds this decision problematic: a host of State and Federal legislators are understandably alarmed by the unnecessary suffering this could impose. You can learn more here.
I will continue to urge the Governor to reconsider this decision and extend this benefit to Maryland workers and families that need this additional help as we reopen.
We need more time for our economy to continue to recover, and we see glimpses of that happening in Montgomery County.
Earlier this week, I visited Truebill, a company located in Downtown Silver Spring. Truebill is a personal finance app company that relocated from San Francisco to Silver Spring months prior to the pandemic. Truebill’s founders are graduates of Montgomery Blair High school in Silver Spring and we are glad to welcome them back. I was at their offices earlier this week as their employees returned, and I was able to congratulate Truebill for receiving $45 million dollars of additional venture capital funding, which will help Truebill continue to grow and add jobs to our economy. Companies like Truebill are an example of the possibilities and opportunities we offer to growing companies here in Montgomery County.
As we pivot from COVID response to COVID recovery, we are continuing to support our businesses and residents who are still reeling from the pandemic effects. Last week, we concluded our Phase 3 round of business grant applications and are optimistic that the vast majority of the 116 applicants will be approved for $10,0000 grants. Additionally, more than 750 previous grant recipients from Phase I and Phase II should receive $5,000 grants. To date, we have provided more than $80 million in business grants.
We have also already provided $115 million in rental assistance and we are providing another $100 million in direct assistance to individuals and families. The County’s Fiscal Year 2022 operating budget that was approved last week adds $25 million to the Working Families Income Supplement. These funds match the State’s increased tax refund for low-income families and expanded eligibility. We are the only jurisdiction in the State that matches the state’s contributions to provide additional help to our families in need. We are able to do this in partnership with the County Council and thanks to support from our Congressional and State leaders.
I want to close by noting that June is Pride Month. I look forward to this month’s events that will honor the contributions made by LGBTQ+ members of our County.
Montgomery County is an inclusive community. We are proud to have welcomed, and continue to welcome and embrace, our LGBTQ+ community. We understand that it makes us stronger and better. There are Pride Month events happening throughout the County this month, and I hope you will be able to attend these events and support our LGBTQ+ community.
As always, thank you for everything you have been doing.