All "non-essential businesses" were ordered to close at 5 p.m. Monday, and several loan/grant opportunities were created for small businesses across the state, Gov. Larry Hogan and senior state officials announced Monday.
Businesses in the following sectors are among those that are allowed to remain open, according to legal guidance provided by the governor's office:
- Commercial facilities, including lodging, laundromats and dry cleaners.
- Communications, including journalists.
- Critical manufacturing, including making medical equipment.
- Emergency services.
- Energy production/shipment.
- Government facilities.
- Health care.
- Water/wastewater systems.
Hogan announced $75 million in loans, and $50 million in grant funds through the state Department of Commerce, to help small businesses through the coronavirus crisis.
Kelly Schulz, the state's secretary of commerce, announced more details about loan and grant opportunities. The state is offering emergency relief grants of up to $10,000 to businesses of 50 or fewer employees.
The state is also offering low-interest loans of up to $50,000 to businesses of 50 or fewer employees, Schulz said. Those loans are at a zero percent interest rate for 12 months, she added.
"We know this is frightening. We know that people are not just worried about their health and the health of their loved ones," Schulz said at a news briefing Monday. "We know you are worrying about your jobs, and whether the stores will be open, and about taking care of your families. ... We're balancing the need to slow the spread of the virus with the need of businesses to continue operating."
Hogan also announced a COVID-19 layoff aversion fund, where $7 million will be available to small businesses statewide to retain employees during the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses can apply for up to $50,000 from this fund, Hogan said.
Tiffany Robinson, Maryland's secretary of labor, said at Monday's news briefing that businesses that apply for money from this fund will receive a response within two business days.
"We know how important it is to provide immediate relief during this rapidly evolving state of emergency," Robinson said.
Hogan said local law enforcement will have more of a role in the weeks ahead to enforce social distancing — maintaining 6 feet between people and minimizing crowds to contain spread of the coronavirus — in public spaces, including grocery and big-box stores.
A "shelter in place" order has not been announced, but Hogan said he and state officials have taken strong action to prevent large gatherings.
"It's all semantics, really. ... Some states have said, there's a shelter-in-place order, but we're going to leave all these businesses open, so we're going to tell you to stay in your house but you can still do all of these things," Hogan said. "We've said we want you to stay in your house, but we're going to close all these things so ... you're comparing apples to oranges. I think our actions are actually more aggressive than some states that have ordered shelter in place."
Hogan said local agencies may be more visible in the coming weeks when breaking up large gatherings.
"You may see police cars lighting up their sirens, and going on their loudspeakers and saying, 'Please disperse, you're endangering the public and you're violating state law,'" Hogan said. "If you have hundreds of people gathered in some place, they're going to try to break up the crowds."