November 19, 2020

Message from the County Executive Marc Elirch

Dear Friends,

Montgomery County hit an unhappy milestone today of having the highest number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 (seven-day average) since the pandemic began in March.  As you can see from the charts below, the trend line is not headed in a good direction either in the County or across Maryland.

7 Day average number of new confirmed cases per 100k residents


7 Day moving average case rate per 100k by jurisdiction

We have to reduce contacts and follow guidelines. That is why additional restrictions have been imposed by Governor Hogan this week and by me last week.

Even amidst this worsening pandemic, other County business continues. Last week, I testified (virtually of course) before the Montgomery County State delegation at the annual public hearing where the County presents it priorities for the 2021 State legislative session, which will convene in January. Together with County Council President Sidney Katz, we explained the County’s joint top priorities for the 2021 Maryland legislative session that begins in January. Those priorities cover a number of topics, and of course, recovery from this pandemic was first. In my brief remarks (limited to five minutes), I emphasized the need for State support for essential transit, including the County’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) and the Purple Line. I also urged our State representatives to support efforts to address climate change, most importantly the Community Choice Energy Act. And we fervently hope that the legislature will override Governor Hogan’s veto of the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future,” which is critically important to education in the coming years.

As you may have heard, the County Council approved a new Subdivision Staging Policy, which has been renamed the “Growth and Infrastructure Policy.” As the new title explains, this policy is supposed to identify the process and funding to make sure that adequate infrastructure—especially schools and transportation—are in place when new development occurs. I am disappointed that the Council did not address the questions I raised in a letter to the Councilmembers. Councilmember Will Jawando expressed concern about the significant decrease in revenues that will result from this new policy. I share those concerns. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the changes will reduce revenues by somewhere between $12.5 million and $20 million a year. The Council has stated that it will consider an increase in the recordation tax to meet the need, but that discussion is not currently scheduled. One of the problems with increasing the recordation tax is that it shifts the costs from the developers of the infrastructure projects to residents. The need for this infrastructure will not disappear, although the revenue from new development will be greatly reduced. Either the funds will have to come from somewhere else or we will have to forgo important infrastructure improvements. That has me worried.

Next week is Thanksgiving and we are imploring you not to gather in the traditional large groups this year. If we all maintain our distance and connect via Zoom or other virtual platforms, then, hopefully, next year we will be able to celebrate with family and friends in person.

Please see our guidance regarding Thanksgiving: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/reopening/requirements/thanksgiving.html

I am thankful for the many wonderful residents, businesses and organizations that are here in Montgomery County. Please stay safe, maintain physical distance and #MaskUpMoCo.




Marc Elrich
County Executive

November 18, 2020

Montgomery County Announces Schedule Changes for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26


The Montgomery County Government will observe the following holiday schedule for Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 26:
  • County offices – Closed.
  • State offices and courts – Closed.
  • Libraries – Closed.
  • Alcohol Beverage Services (ABS) – Closed.
  • Recreation – All facilities closed. No programs held.
  • Montgomery Parks—From information, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.
  • Ride On/ Ride On extRa / Flash – Operate on a Sunday schedule. For more information, visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Transit/routesandschedules/rideonroutes.html.
  • Metrorail and Metrobus – Information is available at wmata.com/service/status.
  • MARC Train and Commuter Bus – Information is available at mta.maryland.gov.
  • TRiPS Commuter Store at Silver Spring Transit Center – Closed.
  • TRiPS Mobile Commuter Store – Closed.
  • Ride On Flex – Not in operation due to health crisis.
  • Maryland Transit Administration: Information available at https://www.mta.maryland.gov/thanksgiving-day-service.
  • County-provided refuse/recycling pickup – County-provided trash and recycling collection will not be done on Thursday, Nov. 26. After the holiday, County-provided recycling and trash collections will slide to be done one day later than normal. Last collections will be on Saturday, Nov. 28.
  • Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station – Closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25. Closed on Thursday, Nov. 26.
  • Parking at public County garages, lots and curbside meters – Free.



County Police, Along with City and State Agencies, Kick Off Annual ‘Click It or Ticket’ Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization and Holiday Driving Task Force



Not wearing a seat belt and impairment from alcohol or drugs are leading causes of traffic fatalities in Montgomery County. To keep roadways safer this upcoming holiday season, Montgomery County Police, along with respective city and State police agency partners, are teaming up for dedicated enforcement of seatbelt and driving under the influence laws.

“Since the pandemic began, we have seen a ‘triple threat’ of excessive speeds, impaired driving and not wearing a seatbelt that have resulted in people losing their lives on our roads,” said Captain David McBain of the traffic division of County Police. “People driving above the speed limit and impaired are dangers to themselves and everyone on the road. We want everyone to get home safe and these mobilizations are a reminder about the responsibilities we all have to keep our roads safe.”

The “Click It or Ticket” campaign will continue through the end of November. In addition to enforcement efforts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supports an $8 million public awareness advertising campaign.

The County Police Alcohol Holiday Task Force, comprised of specifically assigned officers from the Alcohol Initiatives Section and patrol officers from the six police districts, as well as officers from the Gaithersburg Police Department, the Rockville City Police Department, the Maryland-National Capital Park Police Department (Montgomery County Division), the Takoma Park Police Department, troopers from Maryland State Police and sheriff deputies from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, will be devoting their full attention to detecting alcohol-related offenses during the special enforcement campaign.

County Police will have seven full-time Alcohol Initiatives Unit officers and 20 additional officers assigned to the task force. Other departments and agencies will have various numbers of officers participating in enforcement efforts. Among the actions of the task force partners will be to stop suspected drunk drivers and to work with the County’s Department of Alcohol and Beverage Services inspectors on retail compliance with ID and legal age laws.

The task force will continue through Jan. 9. Over the past two years, the Holiday Task Force has removed more than 600 impaired drivers from local roads. The task force’s work will once again be dedicated to County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who was killed by a drunk driver while on duty as part of the 2015 task force.

Anyone who believes that they are observing a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs should:
  • Call 911.
  • If possible, and without putting themselves in danger, safely obtain the license plate number of the vehicle, note its direction of travel and try to identify a description of the vehicle (make, model, color).
Education and enforcement campaign mobilizations to curb dangerous driving behaviors are part of Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Initiative to eliminate serious and fatal injuries from roadways by 2030. For more information on the County’s Vision Zero Initiative, go to https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/visionzero 

County Officials Offer Guidance on Celebrating Upcoming Holidays Safely



Montgomery County officials are urging residents to plan for upcoming holiday celebrations with consideration for family and friends as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to increase around Maryland and throughout the nation.

“We understand that everyone is growing weary of the pandemic and the associated restrictions, but we have worked hard as a community to address COVID-19 and we need to continue to be vigilant in order to keep our families, friends and others safe,” said County Executive Marc Elrich.

When planning to host or attend a holiday celebration, residents need to consider the current COVID-19 levels of the community. Areas throughout the United States are experiencing a rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases. No age group is immune and as young people get COVID-19, infections can rise among older adults including grandparents and parents. Infections in older people are much more likely to lead to hospitalizations and even death.

For Thanksgiving plans, County health officials are urging everyone to consider the most vulnerable family members when making plans. Celebrating virtually or with members of your own households pose the lowest risk for spread.
  • Health officials strongly recommend that residents not hold large family gatherings. Any type of gathering must include mask wearing by everyone, maintaining physical distancing of at least six feet and regular hand washing and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces.
  • Reconsider travel during the holiday season and consider holding virtual gatherings or small gatherings at home. If gathering in person, consider asking everyone who is attending to get tested for COVID-19 beforehand and to limit activities outside of essential things, such as work and grocery shopping, in order to significantly minimize exposure to others before the celebration.
  • The Maryland Department of Health’s website includes information on what to do while waiting for test results. Montgomery County offers dozens of testing clinics weekly. They are free and no doctor’s order is needed. Since there are people with COVID-19 who do not show symptoms, knowing that you are not positive for COVID-19 is one way to provide family and friends with important information and keep everyone safe.
  • Montgomery County, as well as many other areas of the country, is experiencing increased numbers of new cases and testing is important to track community spread.
  • In-person gatherings pose varying levels of risk.
  • Things to consider in planning celebrations:
    • What is the level of COVID-19 in the community where you will be celebrating?
    • Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as open doors and windows.
    • Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
    • How many people are attending? The size of a gathering should be determined based on how to reduce or limit contact between attendees and the risk of spread.
    • Where are people traveling from? What are the levels of COVID-19 in those communities?
    • Are guests practicing social distancing and mask wearing in their day-to-day lives? Each person’s habits have an impact on everyone at the gathering, especially older adults who may be especially vulnerable to serious complications from COVID-19.
    • Gatherings with strong preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing, in place pose less risk than gatherings where few or no preventive measures are implemented. Remind guests to wear masks.
    • Be sure that guests understand expectations and agree to those expectations.
  • Do not attend or host a gathering if you or anyone in your household:
    • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it is safe to be around others.
    • Has symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Is waiting for COVID-19 test results.
    • May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
    • Is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

County Will Hold 51 Free COVID-19 Test Clinics on Upcoming Schedule

Montgomery County’s COVID-19 testing program will include 51 free County-operated clinics over the next nine days. Those clinics will be in addition to more than 45 private providers who are continuing to operate testing clinics. There will be no County clinics on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26.

The upcoming schedule of County-operated clinics includes sites that previously never had testing operations.

Testing at County clinics is free, does not require a doctor’s referral and is available by making advance appointments or on a walk-up basis. Reservations can be made online at www.MoCoCOVIDtesting.org.

There may be a fee at privately operated sites. Residents should check in advance on any possible cost and available times at privately operated sites.

The upcoming County-operated clinics will be at the following:

  • Friday, Nov. 20. 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Rd., Germantown.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. White Oak Community Recreation Center, 1700 April Lane, Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mary's Center, 344 University Blvd. West, Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Poolesville Presbyterian Church, 17800 Elgin Rd., Poolesville.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Lincoln Park Community Center, 357 Frederick Ave., Rockville.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Good Hope Community Center, 14715 Good Hope Rd., Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. Noon-4 p.m. Rockville Methodist Church, 112 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville.
  • Friday, Nov. 20. 1-5 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Hughes United Methodist Church, 10700 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Chinese Bible Church of Maryland, 4414 Muncaster Mill Rd., Rockville.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Rockville Methodist Church, 112 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville.
  • Sunday, Nov. 22. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Sunday, Nov. 22. 1:30-4 p.m. St. Catherine Laboure Catholic Church, 11801 Claridge Rd., Silver Spring.
  • Sunday, Nov. 22. Noon-4 p.m. Westfield Wheaton Mall (parking lot by JC Penney—outdoor drive-up clinic with walk-ups welcome), 11160 Veirs Mill Rd., Wheaton.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 8-11 a.m. St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 201 South Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Rd., Germantown.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center, 11701 Georgia Ave., Wheaton.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. Noon-5 p.m. CDC Mobile Trailer, Lakeforest Mall. Outdoor drive-up clinic (walk-ups welcome). Parking lot near food court entrance, directly in front of Ride On transfer station, 701 Russell Ave., Gaithersburg.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. Noon-6 p.m. Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place, Silver Spring.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 1-4 p.m. Oakfield Apartments, 2217 Georgian Way, Wheaton.
  • Monday, Nov. 23. 1 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. White Oak Community Recreation Center, 1700 April Lane, Silver Spring.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Rd., Germantown.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater, 603 Edmonston Dr., Rockville.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Great Hope Estates, 1140 Good Hope Dr. Silver Spring.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wisconsin Place Community Center, 5311 Friendship Blvd., Chevy Chase.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24. 1 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 9 a.m.-Noon. Wheaton Library and Community Recreation Center, 11701 Georgia Ave., Wheaton.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sligo Adventist Church, 7700 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Poolesville Presbyterian Church, 17800 Elgin Rd., Poolesville.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 1-4 p.m. Mary's Center, 344 University Blvd. West, Silver Spring.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 1-5 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25. 1-4 p.m. Crystal Spring Apartments, 14301 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Germantown Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Rd., Germantown.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mary's Center, 344 University Blvd. West, Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Good Hope Community Center, 14715 Good Hope Rd., Silver Spring.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Department of Health and Human Services-Hungerford Office Building, 401 Hungerford Dr., Rockville.
  • Friday, Nov. 27. 1-5 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 28. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. East County Community Center, 3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 28. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 28. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Angarai Testing Center, 12210 Plum Orchard Dr., No. 214, Silver Spring.
  • Saturday, Nov. 28. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Stedwick Community Center, 10401 Stedwick Rd., Montgomery Village.
  • Sunday, Nov. 29. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Proyecto Salud Clinic, 11002 Veirs Mill Rd., No. 700, Silver Spring.
  • Sunday, Nov. 29. 9 a.m.-3 p.m., St. Camillus Catholic Church, 1600 St. Camillus Dr., Silver Spring.

Free County-operated Clinic for Those 18-and-Under to be Held Saturday, Nov. 21


Montgomery County health officials are urging all residents to get a flu vaccination and there will be one more County-operated clinic providing shots specifically for children ages 6 months to 18. That clinic will be held from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring.

The Dennis Avenue Health Center is located at 2000 Dennis Ave. in Silver Spring. The County will offer flu shots only. High-dose flu vaccine and FluMist will not be available.

Appointments for the clinic can be made on the Maryland Vax website. There will be no walk-ups for the clinic. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

In addition to the County-operated clinics, flu vaccinations are available through private health providers, as well as at retail locations throughout the community.

More information on how to prevent getting or spreading the flu is available on the County’s flu website.

Grants of Up To $10,000 Will be Available to Assist County Food and Beverage Service Businesses That Have Been Impacted by COVID-19 Health Crisis


The Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) will administer and award grants of up to $10,000 to cover a variety of expenses for eligible food and beverage service businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. Applications can be submitted starting Friday, Nov. 20, and must be submitted to the Restaurant Relief Grant Program by Friday, Dec. 4.

The restaurant industry has been severely impacted by the pandemic, losing revenue and customers due to public health-related concerns, closures and restrictions. In response, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan allocated $50 million in direct relief for restaurants, sending approximately $8 million to Montgomery County to aid its restaurants.

Working with County Executive Marc Elrich, the County Council on Nov. 17 voted to approve the Restaurant Relief Grant Program. MCEDC will administer and award the grants to eligible restaurants and other entities such as food trucks, caterers, wineries and breweries that directly provide food service. The grants will be distributed before the end of the year.

Eligible program grant expenses include working capital, such as rent, payroll and job training; purchase of equipment and services to expand outdoor dining, such as tents, heaters, warmers and carts; infrastructure improvements, such as HVAC system upgrades; technology to support carryout and delivery; purchase of PPE and disposable food containers and utensils; and sanitation services.

To apply for a grant, read FAQs and download flyers about the program, visit https://thinkmoco.com/covid-19-resources/restaurant-relief-grant. Email questions to restaurantrelief@thinkmoco.com.

Local restaurants also have been able to access support from health crisis-inflicted expenses from other existing complementary Montgomery County programs. One of those programs is the Reopen Montgomery Grant Program, which covers certain expenses incurred to comply with State and County reopening requirements (as long as they are different expenditures from those in the Restaurant Relief Grant). More information on the Reopen Montgomery Grant Program is available at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/biz-resources/reopen/.

County ‘Tourism Anchor Institution Grants’ Available to Nonprofits that Focus on Arts, Culture, Agriculture and/or Recreation

Montgomery County has created a “Tourism Anchor Institution Grant Program” that will provide financial assistance to nonprofit entities that are tourist-oriented and focus on arts, culture, agriculture and/or recreation that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 health crisis. Eligible organizations can apply for grants starting Thursday, Nov. 19.

The program has the strong support of County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council. The program is funded with a $5 million special appropriation that was approved by the Council. The deadline for receiving completed applications is 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30.

“We continue to develop programs to help as many organizations in the County as possible,” said County Executive Elrich. “The entities that will be assisted through this grant program are the heart and soul of our community.”

Details on the Tourism Anchor Institution grant program and application information—in English and Spanish—can be found at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/biz-resources/covid19/.

The program was created as a result of the severe impact of COVID-19 on Montgomery County’s hospitality industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics/Center Employment Statistics, Montgomery and Frederick counties experienced a 44 percent decline in leisure and hospitality jobs from April 2019 to April 2020. There was an 11 percent employment decline in all job losses during the same period. Montgomery County’s tourism anchor institutions—facilities that attract many visitors—are critical to maintaining the County’s leisure and hospitality industry and the outstanding quality of life for residents.

Grants can be used for general operating purposes. However, the funds cannot be used for the same expenditures for which organizations have received grants from other Federal, State or County grant programs. County Executive staff will review all applications to determine if grant eligibility requirements have been met.

Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants based on the organization’s annual operating budget and operating losses incurred due to the pandemic.

Organizations that are required to register with the State of Maryland must be in “Good Standing” with the State to be eligible for the Tourism Anchor Institution Grant Program. These entities can check their “standing” through the business entity search on Maryland Business Express at https://egov.maryland.gov/businessexpress/entitysearch.

Questions about the Tourism Anchor Institution Grant Program can be emailed to TourismGrant@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection Offers Advice When Considering Roof Replacement—Tips from Top to Bottom



The cause might have been damage from recent high wind and powerful rainstorms. Perhaps age has just caught up with it. It all means that replacing a roof is eventually an obligation for homeowners. Although most roofing replacements have common elements, each job has its individual aspects. Regardless of the complications of the job, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) wants homeowners to be aware of certain aspects of the roofing industry so they can buy knowledgably and avoid scams that have become common in the business.

Most roofing companies have good reputations. Their work can be—and should be—checked on consumer websites that offer customer reviews. However, prices can vary greatly even among honest companies, so it is highly advisable to get several estimates. Lurking in the industry are dishonest companies. OCP wants consumers to be able to recognize those companies to lessen the chance they will get taken in an expensive scam.

“Many roofing companies were unable to work in Maryland for almost two months this spring due to restrictions from the COVID-19 health crisis,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman. “That has led to a backup in roofing jobs, with most companies continuing to be busy even with the approach of winter—traditionally a slower season in the roofing business. That time crunch has led to added high pressure sales techniques by some companies. It also has led to more unlicensed companies surfacing and preying on homeowners who think they are hearing about one-time great deals. Replacing a roof is one of the largest investments a homeowner will make in their house. Homeowners need to be patient, must do some checking and should follow our tips to help avoid being taken by a roofing scammer.”

Among the types of companies that OCP is warning about are those known as Woodchucks. They are unlicensed contractors who typically come door-to-door or engage in a job to trim trees, pick up debris or do basic landscaping. They also may place flyers in neighborhoods and solicit landscaping work. While working on trees, they will undoubtedly find wind damage to roofs, siding or gutters. They also may talk homeowners into undertaking improvement projects to occur inside the home. They will take the deposit, and if they return at all, they will do an incomplete or shoddy job. The bottom line: do not hire unlicensed contractors.

“Storm chasers” pay attention when there has been hail, high winds and rain because they know that insurance companies are more likely to grant a damage claim after such weather. In this type of scam, storm chasing contractors will blanket an area hit by hail or wind damage and look for unsuspecting homeowners in need of roof (or siding and gutter) repairs—especially those looking to have work done quickly. They will pass out leaflets and even show up unannounced or offer a free inspection. Based on the square footage of the roof, they can figure out how much it will cost to put on a cheap new roof. The homeowner gets burned because the storm chaser only does the bare minimum to replace the roof and does not address any other problems or restore the roof to its original condition. The homeowner is left with a poorly constructed roof, lasting perhaps five-to-seven years. The installing company that was once so ready to help has vanished—along with that long warranty it promised.

Another variant of the storm chaser is the company that gets the homeowner to sign an “agreement to agree.” The roofer offers to work with the insurance company to save the homeowner the effort. However, the agreement to agree says that if the roofer does get the insurance company to pay on a claim, the homeowner must use that roofer—and not any other roofer—even if the homeowner changes their mind about needing a repair or finds a cheaper roofer. Consumers have been contacted by lawyers making demands for the full contract price even though the roof has been replaced by another company and paid for by the insurance company.

OCP offers the following tips on avoiding woodchucks, storm chasers and other bad roofing experiences:

  • Estimates: Get more than one estimate and let the companies know you are shopping the job to competitors. On its website, OCP provides a list of questions you can ask. When choosing shingles and other materials, ask the optimal temperature for your new roof and shingles to “cure” or lay flat. Many consumers file complaints due to rippling shingles that require summer heat to cure.
  • Licenses: Ask to see the contractor’s Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) license and verify that it belongs to the company making the bid. If the company is coming door-to-door, ask for its door-to-door vendor license issued by the County’s Department of Permitting Services.
  • Research: Search for the business online and specifically find reviews from past customers. Check into the complaint history with consumer agencies like OCP or the Better Business Bureau.
  • Contract: Get a signed contract that specifies the scope of work, the exact materials to be used, start and end date and the payment terms. That way there will be no surprise add-ons later. The contract must have certain other details such as contact information, MHIC contact information and license number.
  • Color: Shingles come in many colors. During the COVID-19 health crisis, some manufacturers have only been producing shingles in colors in primary demand. If a certain shingle color is important, the homeowner should ask in advance if a contractor has access to the color they want—or how long a delay may be incurred to get that color.
  • Warranty: Get the warranty in writing to understand if it is a workmanship and/or a materials warranty. The roofer may not be around in 20 years, but the materials manufacturer may be. One problem with current roofing materials: companies offer materials that are guaranteed for 40 or 50 years. How many contractors—or materials manufacturers—can be expected to be around four or five decades later to make good on those warranties?
  • Cancellation: If the contract is signed at home, the homeowner has the right to cancel within five days (seven days for seniors).
  • Payment: In the case of work to be done due to damage covered by their insurance policy, homeowners should directly work with the insurance company. That way, they will understand the impact of the claim on coverage and possible increases on future premiums. If the homeowner pays directly, using a credit card can help if a contract dispute arises. One note: some contractors may increase the price by two to four percent to cover the cost they must pay the credit card company. Be sure this is clear. In Maryland, a contractor can only request a 25 percent deposit for work to be performed.

County Rolls Out Multiyear Early Care and Education Action Plan

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith recently highlighted the gains achieved in the first year of the Early Care and Education (ECE) Initiative. They also presented a detailed action plan for the next three years.

The ECE action plan is aimed at significantly increasing access and affordability to quality early care and education for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The initiative, a partnership with the County Council, MCPS and Montgomery College, received $7 million in County funding for the first year.

“Prior to the severe hardships that COVID-19 created for parents and providers alike, we were able to make great strides in expanding the number of available seats and creating critical partnerships,” said County Executive Elrich. “The Action Plan, developed by the initiative workgroups and stakeholders, is meant to provide a blueprint for continuing to move this agenda forward over the next three years. However, given the impact of the pandemic, we will focus our efforts first on recovery for existing early childhood programs. We will follow with an emphasis on the development and sustainability of a system of early care and education and on access to high-quality, affordable childcare for families.”

The goal of the first year was to increase the number of quality early care and education seats in a variety of settings (family childcare, center-based childcare and schools) by recruiting additional family childcare providers and identifying partnership opportunities with MCPS and Montgomery College. This would make quality childcare more accessible to more families. The initiative focused its year one efforts in: 
  • Expansion of early childhood education seats.
  • Increased access to and affordability of quality early childhood education.
  • Sustainability of existing early childhood education programs.
  • Alignment of partnerships to identify and knock down barriers.
  • Monitoring Kirwan Commission recommendations to ensure alignment with potential statewide imperatives.
  • Developing an action plan for the next three years.
“As the author of the framework that created the ECE Initiative, I’m thrilled of its progress as it affirms my belief that high quality, accessible and affordable early care and education opportunities can be available to all parents in our County, especially underserved populations whose children are not being adequately prepared for kindergarten and who are economically impacted by a lack of access to opportunities,” said Councilmember Navarro. “This is both an economic imperative and a racial equity and social justice issue”

Moving forward, the County government and its partners at MCPS and Montgomery College will focus on key ECE Initiative priorities along with continued support for recovery efforts to: 
  • Provide new and ongoing resources to sustain partnerships and high-quality early childhood education across settings.
  • Provide ease of access and affordable options for families with children infants through age five.
  • Create partnerships and alignment of services for ease of access for families of young children, early educators and the public.
  • Expand the supply and options for high quality early education programs in multiple settings.
  • Examine and advise on potential revenue sources to sustain and expand childcare access.
“The pandemic has reinforced the urgent need to expand early childhood education opportunities for all our students,” said Dr. Smith. “We must focus on children who may not have resources to access early learning independently.”

According to the Montgomery County Early Child Care and Education Strategic Plan 2017, the County is home to more than 76,000 children under age six. About 30,000 (roughly 40 percent) of the County’s youngest children are economically vulnerable, which means they live below 300 percent of the Federal poverty level (below $71,550 for a family of four).  

“Montgomery College provides a variety of early childhood programs, including degrees, certificates, and credentialing programs – both in English and Spanish,” said Dr. Pollard. “I am proud of our contributions to expand access to childhood education and care, as well as promoting a more sustainable system. These are especially critical as we strengthen the local economy in the wake of COVID-19.”

For more information about the ECE Initiative and to view the full report, visit the Early Care and Education Policy website.