Per Montgomery County:
Happy Thanksgiving, I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday. I am very thankful for our residents, for your patience, cooperation and continued efforts to keep our community healthy. I am also grateful for the hard work and dedication of the employees of the Montgomery County Government and community partners who work to keep our County safe, healthy and one of the best places to live and work.
COVID-19 boosters eligibility expanded
The big news this week is that everyone 18-and-older who received their vaccine more than six months ago is now eligible for a COVID-19 booster. Boosters are available at pharmacies and through other private providers, and they are also available at County-operated and other health care clinics. Expanded eligibility for boosters is good news for all of us as we approach the holiday season and the winter months. We have enough vaccine for adult boosters, and there are numerous places throughout the community where residents can get vaccinated. This booster will provide an extra layer of protection and help slow down the spread of the virus, which will make our County even safer.
Our children are getting vaccinated
Additional good news is that our children ages 5-11 are continuing to be vaccinated. About 30 percent have already received their first dose, which is the highest number in the State.
Last week, I expressed our concern over lack of supply. I am happy to report that the State sent us an additional 5,000 doses on Monday for a total of 12,000 pediatric doses this week. It did this because we have been effective at vaccinating the children. You can find information about appointments and much more at www.GoVaxMoco.com.
Our farmers are helping feed those in need
As we enjoy our Thanksgiving meals, we remember the thousands of County residents who go to bed hungry every night. Near the beginning of the pandemic, we created the Food Security Task Force. Since then, we have worked with more than 100 food assistance providers and we have provided more than $25 million in the collective work to help our food insecure residents. A few weeks ago, we submitted another $6.8 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds toward these efforts.
Our “Farm to Food Bank” program is producing food for people in need and at the same time helping support farmers in our nationally acclaimed Agricultural Reserve. Last year, our capacity building grants of up to $20,000 helped position 22 farmers to expand food production for 2021. We now have 28 farmers in 2021 that are participating with the Farm to Food Bank to increase wholesale food production for people in need. We plan to continue these programs in 2022 to help address food resiliency, and they are also an important part of our effort to work with our local farmers to expand food production right here in Montgomery County.
Providing rental assistance and health care
During Thanksgiving, we are also thankful for our families and our homes. Unfortunately, there also are thousands of County residents who are behind on the rent and worried about being evicted and becoming homeless. To date, the COVID Rent Relief Program has distributed more than $54 million in direct rental assistance, preventing evictions for more than 8,000 households. As one recipient of assistance noted, “There are no words that can express my gratitude. I appreciate your effort and patience with me more than you know.”
We announced this week an additional $34 million dollars in Emergency Rental Assistance funds from the Department of Treasury.
The program continues to process and accept new applications. If you are behind on your rent and have lost income due to the pandemic or know someone who has, please apply for these funds now. To review program eligibility and apply for assistance, visit www.mc311.com/rentrelief.
We also added $7.7 million for Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar, our Latino Health Initiative and the African American Health Program (AAHP). These expenditures expand County equity efforts by combatting COVID-19-related health disparities through engagement within the Black, Latino and immigrant communities. I am very proud of these initiatives, and we can see by our data and outcomes, these efforts are working. Earlier this week, Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar launched this catchy jingle to promote vaccinations: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1839906412860953.
Addressing public safety issues
Some of you may have heard about large gatherings of cars this past Saturday in various places in the County. Our police department heard about the first event in East County that night and it was able to alert the Prince George’s County Police and Maryland State Police. The group then moved to other locations in the County. I am very appreciative of our police who kept pressuring the crowd to move each time they gathered. While it would provide a greater danger to the public for the police to chase the reckless drivers, they were able to contain their activities and eventually move them along without anyone getting seriously injured.
These events have been happening all over the region and I have asked our police department to find these cars, as well as take any preventive measure that are possible. I have also reached out to the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments so that we can meet and discuss regional strategies and solutions. Although it is tough to prove by a license plate number that the individual a car was registered to was the driver at the event, we are going to be referring all license plates that are gathered to the insurance companies and make them aware that these vehicles were being used in lawless manner. This will enable the insurance companies to hike their rates and hit them in the pocketbook.
We are also going to deploy more license plate readers throughout the County, including in Downtown Silver Spring. If you see reckless driving actions, are aware of a gathering of these vehicles or have video or photos, contact the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000. Please only use 9-1-1 for an emergency or if an accident is witnessed.
I also want to thank the police for the work they have done in Silver Spring over the past month to increase their presence and reduce crime. One month ago, the police launched a crime intervention task force that uses tactics to look for stolen vehicles, position officers in high visibility areas and is working with other County departments—such as Alcohol Beverage Services, Permitting Services and Environmental Protection—to address issues contributing toward crime.
We will keep working together and with others in the region to find a variety of solutions to these problems.
Shop small! Shop local!
For many, the day after Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday shopping season. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to shop local and support our small retail businesses and restaurants. For every dollar you spend at a local retail business, 68 cents stay in our community as compared to 43 cents at national chain retailers and even less for online shopping. Shopping local is also more equitable. Of main street business owners, 28 percent are immigrants, even though immigrants make up only 18 percent of overall business ownership. So, this Saturday, join me in participating in “Small Business Saturday.” Please shop small, shop local and in Montgomery County.
Give on Tuesday and when you can
The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become known as “Giving Tuesday.” It is a good reminder to take time out to donate or volunteer. We have a multitude of organizations helping make our County even better. This is a good time to thank them for their work with a donation if you are able.
I was honored to be invited this week to attend two events celebrating the 552nd birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. I thanked the many attendees for honoring the beliefs of the Guru Nanak—belief in equality and love for all people. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this Sikh community has distributed more than 300,000 meals and I am very appreciative of its work during the pandemic to reach underserved communities.
I hope you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving. For most of us, Thanksgiving is about coming together and giving thanks for what we have. But the origins of Thanksgiving have a very different meaning for the Native American community. I did want to note during Native American Heritage Month that we need to remember that our Native American population is not thankful for the theft of its land and the atrocities committed. We remember and acknowledge that important history and recommit ourselves to our work for an inclusive, equitable community.
As always, I appreciate your support.