Brooke’s Weekly COVID Brief

This is a weekly general post with resources and information. To have this emailed to you every Monday, sign up HERE.

This blog post is updated weekly. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know how you’re doing, what ideas you have to weather this storm, and what needs you see or that you have. My legislative director, Dani, and I continue to check our office phone (410-841-3319) and email regularly. *For COVID-19 information in other languages, click here*

For a Facebook page with Spanish-language materials, click HERE.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Quick Hits (time sensitive opportunities for you)
  2. FAQs
  3. Baltimore City Update
  4. State COVID-19 Update
  5. Federal COVID-19 Update
  6. A Little Fun! Free things to do from home.
  7. Trusted Resources

Friends and Neighbors,

For all of you who are mothers of any kind, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday! I felt so lucky to have a lovely day to share with my kids, but also worried about my mom and all of our elderly and at-risk Marylanders who need to stay far away from others during this scary time. I have been especially frustrated by the lack of tests available at our nursing homes, and I support the call for more transparency from our Governor about why the tests he procured have not been sent to our nursing homes. I have talked with many people whose loved ones are in nursing homes who have no access at all to tests – a terrifying situation to be in!

Moms (and dads) are also pulling extra duty these days – teaching kids and trying to work or to keep their family in financial health. It’s an extraordinarily difficult and challenging time for many, many people. Several D46 constituents were featured in this article about this difficult juggling process.

Despite the Governor’s assertion that the unemployment system “is fixed,” we also are hearing regularly from constituents who cannot file for unemployment and have not received checks. We continue to bring this up with this team at the Department of Labor and elsewhere. It is a horrible and frustrating situation to be in and I am so sorry that Maryland’s executive branch has not been more responsive to these dire needs. We will continue to push and push for people to get answers. The Senate is having a hearing tomorrow and YOU can testify to let the Governor know what you think. Sign up HERE to testify.

VETOES: I was incredibly disappointed that Governor Hogan vetoed a variety of incredibly important and bipartisan bills last week. He vetoed nearly every violence prevention bill – including one that I championed on the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program – saying he was was vetoing them not because he disagreed but because he was upset we didn’t pass his bill. He vetoed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which was tied to HB1 – additional capital dollars for building and renovating schools. He also vetoed resources for the Prescription Drug Bill Affordability Board (read more here) and plans to expand MARC service into Virginia and out to Newark – both great infrastructure projects that could be funded by a future federal bill, but that now will lose out on potential federal funding. He vetoed several bills that would have provided support for our arts organizations – at a time when our arts organizations are hurting the most, and he vetoed funding for our HBCUs, even though a federal lawsuit means that without this legislation the state may have to pay *more.* It was an incredibly frustrating day and I remain disheartened at the lack of long-term vision and thinking that most of these vetoes indicate our Governor has about the state.

Briefings with Brooke: This week I’m starting a new month of regular Briefings with Brooke – I’ll be talking with some national experts on the environmental impact of COVID-19 and looking forward as we continue to tackle climate change, and also talk with some Maryland leaders about what re-opening looks like. Check out all my webinars HERE to RSVP or sign up below as well! Let me know if YOU have ideas for people or topics I should tackle in these briefings.

For business owners looking for guidance on how to reopen safely (when it is allowed), Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has released operational toolkit. You can find it HERE.

There was great turn out of volunteers and a large number of cars and people come through on Saturday with our food giveaway in combination with Chef Andrés and World Central Kitchen! I’m excited that WCK is also expanding to support some restaurants to give food away as well. To learn more about World Central Kitchen and support their work, visit their website, and read more about their work here.

If you didn’t have a chance to check out what I wrote in The Hill about the importance of the federal government sending funding to state and local governments, give it a read and let me know what you think.

QUICK HITS

Briefings with Brooke!

Part of my job as an elected official is to make sure you have access to information and resources. That’s why I’m so pleased to be bringing you a series of briefings – online conversations where YOU can ask questions. See past recordings and announcements about upcoming webinars on my website HERE.

  • Tuesday, May 12 – The Climate & COVID, What’s Next for our Environment? Join me for a discussion about what’s next in environmental advocacy with special guests Joanne Throwe, President of Throwe Environmental, LLC and Senior Fellow at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy’s Center for Global Sustainability; Kim Coble, Executive Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters; and Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director at 350.org. RSVP here!
  • Thursday, May 14 – Reopening Maryland: Join me for a discussion on reopening Maryland with Ken Skrzesz, Executive Director at the Maryland State Arts Council within the Department of Commerce; Al Hutchinson, President & CEO of Visit Baltimore; Shelonda Stokes, Interim CEO of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and Alicia Wilson, Vice President of Economic Development for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital System. RSVP here!
  • Tuesday, May 19 – Bridging the Digital Divide: Join me for a discussion on the digital divide with Heidi Daniels, CEO of the Enoch Pratt, Andrew Coy, founder of the Digital Harbor Foundation, Caryn York, CEO of JOTF and Tina Hike-Hubbard, Communications Director of Baltimore City Public Schools. RSVP here!

Business Health HelpOn the Baltimore City Coronavirus website, there is a page with information for community and business leaders that details steps employees and employers should take if an essential worker becomes ill with COVID-19, and other helpful guidance and FAQs. Johns Hopkins has also released important new guidance on how to operate businesses safely! Check it out HERE.  Tis the Season – for Farmers Markets!Farmers markets are back and you can find the closest one to you at THIS website. In D46, we are lucky to have one in Fell’s Point on Saturday mornings and one at the BMI on Saturday mornings. Visit them, buy good food, and support Maryland agriculture! 

Spanish-Language Materials

  • The Legislative Latino Caucus, of which I am a member, has created a Facebook group with materials on COVID in Spanish! I am uploading materials there on a regular basis. Please check it out here.
  • The Latino Economic Development Center can help Spanish speaking small business owners apply for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Centro Sol from Johns Hopkins Bayview has great materials available here

Preservation Maryland has SEVEN grant opportunities open for organizations. Check them out here.

STATE RESOURCES

June 2 Election Update

This election will take place primarily by mail-in ballot, with up to 4 voting cites in each county and the City. The State Board will mail ballots automatically to every registered voter at the address the State Board of Elections has on file. The ballots will be mailed during the first week of May to provide ample time for voters to mail them back. You will also be able to drop them in a secure location at a voting site on Election Day. See the State Board of Elections Guide HERE.

Executive Update

You can read all about the reopening plan at https://governor.maryland.gov/recovery/. If you have ideas, thoughts, or concerns, please let me know so I can pass them along! To see a list of all of the Governor’s recent Executive Orders, including interpretive guidance on each one click here. This week, the state also launched several drive-through testing sites (appointments still required) and surge temporary medical facilities, including one at the Baltimore Convention Center. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our office – brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319. 

Maryland Department of Labor Updates

Last week on Wednesday, the Governor and Department of Labor announced that they had fixed all of the tech issues with the new BEACON one-stop UI application. Even if the tech issues have slowed, we know that hundreds of thousands of Marylanders are still waiting for their benefits to arrive (some for over 6 weeks), disputing the outcomes of their claims, struggling with the maze of web certifications, and more. Needless to say, I am not satisfied with these “fixes” and the outcomes are still dismal. Please keep in touch with my office and we will continue to advocate for you.

Here are some resources that the Department released that may be helpful to you.

Video Tutorials:

  • Account Activation and Login – here
  • Applying for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – HERE – This is the 13 week extension of UI benefits for those that may have exhausted their original 26 weeks.
  • Applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – here – This is the new UI program for self employed, independent contractors, sole proprietors, gig economy workers, non-profits, and those with limited work history.
  • Technical Support Issues – BEACON.Support@maryland.gov

Q&A – Resources for You

  • Feeling stressed out and anxious? Now more than ever it is important that we and everyone makes an effort to take care of themselves including efforts to relax and decompress. Here are some helpful links:
  1. https://www.virusanxiety.com/ 
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-practicing-wellness-while-you-stay-at-home
  • Need help applying for unemployment? See “Department of Labor” section under “State Updates” below for detailed information. 
  • Looking for a job? The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development can help with finding a job! Several companies are hiring: https://moed.baltimorecity.gov/job-seekers/now-hiring.
  • Need help finding food now? Food is available at dozens of sites across the city: https://coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/food-distribution-sites
  • Need help with public benefits? SNAP application assistance is provided by Maryland Hunger Solutions (866-821-5552). Legal help with terminations or determinations for SNAP, TCA, or TDAP is provided by the Homeless Persons Representation Project (410-364-4198).
  • Having a legal issue related to eviction/ landlords, utilities, unemployment, immigration, or domestic violence? The Maryland Access to Justice Commission is here to help with civil legal issues: https://www.mdaccesstojustice.org/covid-19/.
  • Questions about workers’ rights and COVID? The Public Justice Center has an awesome FAQ page and great explainers to help you understand your rights: http://www.publicjustice.org/en/legal_help/workers-rights-and-covid-19/
  • Are you from the hospitality industry and looking for resources? Check out the new website of the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund. On this site you can learn more about their relief fund and resources for workers and owners in the restaurant world. The website is in Spanish and English.
  • Need health insurance? The Maryland Health Connection has extended the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period to June 15 for uninsured Marylanders who need health coverage. Visit MarylandHealthConnection.gov or download the free “Enroll MHC” mobile app. Request or select “Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period.” Free help is available by calling 1-855-642-8572 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Visit www.marylandcares.org for free help with an enrollment dispute.
  • Need help with taxes? Tax prep assistance is provided for free by the Maryland Cash Campaign: http://cashmd.org/ and https://www.mdcashacademy.org/
  • Need day care? Childcare for Essential Personnel: Parents who are still required to go to work can receive support and care for their children by calling 1-877-261-0060, or visiting http://www.marylandfamilynetwork.org/essentialpersonnel.
  • Confused about the Governor’s stay at home directive? The Sun released a helpful, entertaining Q&A. Click here.
  • Haven’t completed your Census Questionnaire yet? Do it today at www.my2020census.gov! It takes 5-10 minutes.
  • Experiencing health issues and need to talk to a healthcare provider for advice or a referral? Call the Esperanza Center’s Health Hotline for bilingual services (M-F, 9AM-5PM) at 667-600-2314.
  • Want more information about COVID-19 from medical professionals?The Healthy Community Partnership and Medicine for the Greater Good at Johns Hopkins Bayview host a coronavirus (COVID-19) update call on Mondays at 3:00 p.m. and Fridays at 11:00 a.m. The dial-in information is: Toll-free number: (888) 651-5908; Participant code: 3569812. There is also a daily podcast, Public Health On Call, which includes interviews about the coronavirus. Daily and past podcasts can be found at http://bit.ly/publichealthoncall. University of Maryland Medical System free call line: open to the public 24/7 to answer questions related to COVID-19. Calls will be answered and routed by an Operator. A Registered Nurse will then connect with callers to answer their questions The call line number is 1-888-713-0711.For more information, visit https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/nurse-call-line 
  • Want to volunteer in a way that is safe and complies with the Governor’s stay at home order? Complete a volunteer application and sign up for a shift here. There are a wide variety of organizations in need of diverse skill sets! For a full list of current volunteer opportunities, click here. Blood donations are critically needed and are considered an essential activity – make an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org.
  • Finding that essential household items have jumped up in price? Price gouging of important resources is illegal! Report any personal experiences by contact the Attorney General’s Office at 410-528-8662, or email consumer@oag.state.md.us. 
  • Worried about a senior who might be lonely? There’s a new program that organizes friendly phone calls to elderly neighbors. If you’d like to get involved or sign someone up, visit: BaltimoreNeighborsNetwork.org.
  • Worried about someone who may be experiencing domestic violence? Most domestic violence and sexual assault services providers are still open, including the SAFE & DV program at BGMC, House of Ruth, and others. Learn more here: https://www.baltimoresun.com/coronavirus/bs-md-domestic-violence-coronavirus-20200326-qa3r334fcba2xcymmjp4q4znim-story.html. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233).
  • Are you a small business owner or leader of a nonprofit that needs support? Sign up for my business-focused weekly emails with resources/information here: https://act.myngp.com/Forms/-3341106874043858944 and visit my Business Resources Guide here: http://www.brookelierman.com/2020/03/19/covid-response-business-resources/
  • Are you an independent artist in need of financial support? The Maryland State Arts Council just launched an emergency grant for artists, as they do not qualify for some of the state and federal relief programs. Learn more here.
  • Need help paying for housing? The following third party organizations in Baltimore City are offering assistance with paying for housing, if needed, during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
  • Franciscan Center: 410-467-5340
  • HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM): 410-649-0529
  • American Legion Department of MD State Headquarters: 410-752-1405, 800-433-3318
  • New Shiloh Baptist Church: 410-523-5306
  • All Saints Church: 410-542-0445
  • Mount Moriah Baptist: 410-945-3575
  • New Creation Christian Church Love Outreach Ministry: 410-488-5653
  • Paul’s Place: 410-625-0775
  • Walbrook Vicinity Churches Assistance Ministry: 410-383-1525
  • Zion Baptist Church: 410-837-4181
  • St. Anthony of Padua: 410-488-9918
  • Mercy Supportive Housing Program: 410-675-2125
  • Salvation Army Family Service Center: 410-783-2920
  • City Temple Outreach: 410-383-8040, 410-462-4800
  • Friendship Outreach Center: 410-444-1595
  • Bon Secours Community Works: 410-362-3808
  • Baltimore City District Court — Eviction Prevention Program: 410-878-8650
  • St Vincent de Paul — The Samaritan Center: 667-600-3700 ext. 1

Resources regardless of immigration status (from MIMA)

BALTIMORE CITY UPDATE

Updates on Baltimore City Government Operations are available via the link below:

www.coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov. The City also has a new COVID-19 Online Dashboard with breakdowns by race, zip code, age, gender and number of cases over time. Baltimore Development Corporation created a website to serve as a repository of information and resources for both residents and businesses and will be continuously updated as new information becomes available. Please visit www.BaltimoreTogether.com for a more comprehensive list of resources for businesses, workers and the general public.

Distance Learning in City Schools continues! The hub for this initiative is www.baltimorecityschools.org/distance-learning. For help with homework and class assignments and questions about online learning, please call City Schools’ Homework and Technology Help Desk at 443-984-2001. The hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Lessons on television – Students will be able to access daily reading, math, science, and art lessons on City Schools TV (Comcast 77) and the city’s CharmTV (Comcast 25 and 1025). Additionally, CharmTV will offer lessons via streaming video at http://www.charmtvbaltimore.com. A schedule of lessons will be available on the district’s Distance Learning webpage. 

Food: Many schools continue to offer breakfast and lunch for students. They are “grab and go” meals. The Parent may go and pick up a meal for their family – the students do not have to be there. To see a list of meal sites visit here: https://www.bmorechildren.com/freemeals.

Tax information

Business Tax Payments Extension: Businesses in Maryland will be given a 90-day extension for tax payments. No interest or penalty for late payments will be imposed if 2019 tax payments are made by July 15, 2020.

Business Tax Filing Deadline Extension: The Maryland Comptroller’s Office also extended business-related tax filing deadlines to June 1, 2020.

Business Licensing & Permitting Extension: Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order mandating all licenses, permits, and registrations that would expire during the current state of emergency to be extended until at least the 30th day after the state of emergency is lifted.

FEDERAL UPDATE

To date, there are three new federal laws to provide economic relief related to COVID-19:

  • H.R.748: (CARES) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – Enacted March 27, 2020.  Includes direct payments to Americans, an aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance, billions of dollars in aid to large and small businesses, and a new wave of significant funding for the healthcare industry
  • H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act — Enacted March 18, 2020. Guaranteed free coronavirus testing, established paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded food security initiatives, and increased federal Medicaid funding.
  • H.R. 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 — Enacted March 4, 2020. Provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak related to developing a vaccine, medical supplies, grants for public health agencies, small business loans, and assistance for health systems in other countries. Allowed for temporarily waiving Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services.

The CARES Act will provide about $4 billion in aid to Maryland, including millions of dollars for FEMA, SNAP, local school districts, local nutrition programs and childcare. It will support small businesses and nonprofits through three main programs. All of these programs are now accepting applications! You can learn more about each program and apply for them by clicking “learn more”. There are other helpful links with checklists and guides at the end of this email.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance (EIDL). Learn more. This is a working capital loan, but cannot be used to refinance preexisting debt. First payment on the loan, when approved, will be deferred from a 12-month period. Interest rate fixed at $3.75 and maximum term is 30 years. Sole proprietors and most non-profits are eligible. There is also an advance does not need to be repaid available at the end of the loan application. You can access up to $10,000 immediate payment to be used for payroll and other operating expenses.
  • Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) – Learn more. The applications open today. Can be used for payroll, benefits, utilities, etc. If employees are retained on the payroll, then the loan will be forgiven. Loan payments deferred for 6-months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. A sample application form is available here. Private non-profit organizations and veteran organizations are eligible.

A LITTLE FUN

First and foremost: go easy on yourself. Your friends may be posting clothing they have created from their newfound sewing or knitting obsession and your sibling may be training for a marathon, but each of us is experiencing this unique and challenging time differently. So, give yourself a break. That said, here are a few fun things online… 

  • Museums offer a rich learning experience which doesn’t have to stop when you’re at home.  Keep kids of all ages engaged with FREE activities designed and collected by the education staff at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. 
https://www.thebmi.org/visit/visit-from-home/?fbclid=IwAR2pjmFlMRtsGtsDjmTBDtF4aAV69qjpzQW_R61Oa-EuevsxsjFH00Yg3L0
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays until the museum can reopen, the team at the B&O Railroad Museum presents a new episode of Junior Junction, a virtual storytime with corresponding educational activities for parents  and educators to download at home. http://www.borail.org/jrjunction.aspx
  • The Maryland Zoo educators are bringing the Zoo to You weekdays at 11 a.m. on both  Facebook and Instagram. Each episode features a different animal with fun facts and info on how they are cared for at the Zoo. https://www.facebook.com/MarylandZoo/?ref=br_tf
  • Thousands of artworks from around the world and across centuries, along with ancient manuscripts, are available for virtual browsing via The Walters’ online collections. Transport yourself to another time and get lost in the art for awhile. https://art.thewalters.org/
  • Baltimore City Rec Centers have gone virtual! You will find FREE video tutorials, crafts, fitness, games and activities for all ages. We want to make sure you stay active and have fun while at home. The Virtual Rec is growing daily, so check back often. #stayhomeheroes https://bcrp.baltimorecity.gov/virtual-rec
  • Starting to feel cabin fever? Take a virtual tour of a historic ship in Baltimore: https://historicships.org/
  • The Reginald F. Lewis Museum has put together online resources to educate your family Maryland’s African American history and culture while having fun. Virtual storytime is held every Thursday at 1PM on Facebook and Youtube. 
https://www.facebook.com/rflewismuseum?mc_cid=b9c5f92269&mc_eid=5808054316
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd4AjBjKVQgqtiM2H20zuHQ?mc_cid=b9c5f92269&mc_eid=5808054316
  • Missing Baseball? Stream Ken Burns documentary for free here.
  • Go on a trip without leaving your home! This list has dozens of online experiences from all over the world. 
  • Baltimore Magazine has put together some entertaining kids at-home activities as well – click here.
  • Amazon made a library of kids movies free for streaming – click here.
  • Access some fun at our Maryland Science Center! Click here.

Additional Trusted Information