This week is National Nurses Week. I want to extend my thanks and gratitude to all nurses serving our County residents, including the approximately 300 nurses we have working in our Health and Human Services and Corrections departments and at the public schools. Over the last two years, nurses have been on the frontline, working non-stop to deal with the COVID-19 health crisis. They did this while also serving the sick and injured from treating a cold to educating a patient about their diabetes or assessing an older adult's ability to care for themselves. Nurses never stopped taking care of our most vulnerable residents.
Nursing is a difficult job with long hours and intense conditions—while also being overworked and often under compensated. Our nurses deserve to be appreciated every day, and I encourage everyone to please reach out and thank the nurses in their lives this week.
‘No Matter What Happens Elsewhere’: $1 Million Fund Recommended to Ensure Access to Maternal Health
This also is National Women’s Health Week, and unfortunately, as we celebrate the contributions of nurses and women’s health week, there is a political and legal assault on the reproductive rights and health of women. Nurses face the threat of being jailed in parts of this country for doing what we are honoring them for this week—caring for others. This is absurd.
No matter what happens elsewhere, we must act to protect reproductive choice and women’s health here. Even though abortion will remain legal and safe in Maryland and Montgomery County, we will not be able to avoid the residual impacts of this ruling from neighboring states—like West Virginia—and the impact it will have on our maternal health system. Planned Parenthood leaders in Montgomery County say we are already seeing women come from states like Texas to remain healthy and free from persecution and prosecution.
This week, I recommended a supplemental allocation of $1 million to create a fund that will ensure increased access to maternal health, family planning and abortion services. This funding for our nonprofit providers in our County will help serve the growing need by:
- Assisting with wraparound services—for those who are using abortion services as well as those who choose to have children.
- Providing grants to organizations in the County that provide abortion services.
- Supporting organizations focused on comprehensive family planning, reproductive health, and maternal health.
- Providing aid to organizations that are fighting legal battles on behalf of women.
Current COVID-19 Case Surge Lasting Longer Than Expected
Our COVID rates continue to climb and now exceed 200 cases per 100,000 residents. Our current case rate is as high as we were at the end of the Omicron surge in January and there is currently more transmission of the virus in our community than anytime last fall.
Our current surge in cases is lasting longer than expected, meaning more people risk being exposed to COVID as it remains more prevalent in the community. With many families gathering last weekend for Mother’s Day and with graduations, proms and other end of school year celebrations on the horizon, I am concerned that this rise in the cases may continue to worsen.
Our COVID-related hospitalizations remain low at 4 percent of hospital beds, but there are 63 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Montgomery County and acute care occupancy has doubled since last week. Among those hospitalized in our County, unvaccinated patients outnumber the vaccinated 3 to 1. We continue to encourage everyone to stay up today on their vaccinations and especially boosters. You can get a booster at http://www.govaxmoco.com/.
We have seen a 19 percent increase in testing over the previous week at our Health and Human Services sites. We continue to distribute free take home rapid tests at our libraries, and this past week, we went over one million rapid tests distributed to our residents since we started in January. Please remember to stop by any County library and ask for a rapid test if you or family needs one. The best way for us to reduce transmission is to test and isolate if you test positive.
Rental Relief Applications Reopen Starting Monday, May 16
Our COVID-19 Rent Relief Program will reopen for applications starting Monday, May 16. Eligible Montgomery County renters can soon apply for additional COVID-19 rent relief through the fourth phase of the program, which provides financial assistance for tenants who have experienced a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding for this fourth phase comes from U.S. Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance, or E-RAP, in direct allocations to the County. We have already helped more than 10,000 Montgomery County residents struggling to pay their rent because they lost their job or had to take time off unexpectedly because of COVID-19. The County has helped coordinate $78 million in rental assistance.
To apply for funds, households must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements. Household members must:
- Have experienced COVID‐19-related financial hardship.
- Have a household gross income from either your 2020 or 2021 tax return or the previous 30 days that is at or below 50 percent of AMI.
- Have resided in Montgomery County since at least August 2021.
- Have an obligation to pay rent, formally or informally.
- Be behind on their rental obligation by at least two months.
It is important to note that this program will accept applications starting Monday, May 16, through June 30.
Visit www.mc311.com/rentrelief to apply online.
Applicants will be asked to answer questions about COVID-19’s impact on their household and some questions about household members, income and rent. Applicants should be prepared to upload supporting documents and have the landlord’s information available.
People in households without internet access or who need assistance completing the application should call 311 (240-777-0311) to get connected with County staff or partners who can assist them in completing an application. Renters facing an immediate loss of housing should also call 311 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday to be connected with DHHS’ Housing Stabilization Services.
Addressing the economic impacts of the pandemic will take a sustained and intentional effort by governments at all levels. We want our most vulnerable families that have been negatively affected by COVID-19 to be able to stay in their homes. This fourth phase of rental relief funds will help us do just that. I am very appreciative to our State and Federal partners who have helped our County in this collective work to keep our families whole.
Wish MCPD a Happy 100th at Police Community Day
MCPD’s Police Community Day Montgomery is Saturday, May 14. Community Day will be a family friendly event to mark the MCPD’s 100th anniversary. It all begins at noon at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg. This event is a great opportunity to meet our officers and to talk to them about the work they are doing. The event will feature many free activities for families including live music. There will be food trucks on site. Come join us for a day of fun. Parking will be free.
‘IgnITe Hub’ is Here!
Are you or your family members or kids interested in coding, computer technologies or becoming the next Steve Jobs? If so, then you may want to join me, Councilmember Craig Rice, Montgomery College and MCPS at Montgomery College in Rockville from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, for the Grand Opening of “IgnITe Hub." IgnITe Hub is a 21st Century space to collaborate and innovate, to spur entrepreneurship, solve community problems and spark career interests.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the IT field is set to grow by 13 percent from 2020 to 2030 – higher than the average for all occupations. IgnITe Hub is an innovative and important project that will engage students of all ages to improve their skills, become career-ready and help local nonprofits and small businesses with application development support. The project is a win for our economy, the educational system, local entrepreneurs, nonprofits and any residents who want to expand their knowledge and expertise in the IT fields.
Please join us on Saturday by registering here.
Building Safety Month
May is Building Safety Month, with the goal to help residents understand what it takes to create and sustain safe structures. Over the past year we have had several building safety issues grab headlines here in Montgomery County. Last summer, we saw multiple deck collapses cause injuries. Just a few months ago, a mistake by a plumber resulted in an explosion at Friendly Garden that thankfully did not seriously injure anyone, but displaced many residents.
Building Safety is something that this County takes very seriously, and I want to thank our departments and employees who play a role in ensuring that County’s codes and regulations are upheld, and inspections are performed, in order to save lives.
Please watch this video created by the Department of Permitting Services about Building Safety Month.
Ride-On Drives to Make a Difference
Our Ride On buses go hundreds of thousands of miles each year, but their most important “drive" of the year is next week. Montgomery County Ride On bus riders can donate non-perishable food to the County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Ride On food drive from May 15-22. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off on all Ride On, extRa, Flex and Flash buses. A food donation bag will be available next to the farebox.
We must ensure that no one in Montgomery County goes hungry. Food insecurity was prevalent before the pandemic hit—and COVID-19 made it even worse. Many people lost jobs and higher food prices continue to make it exceedingly difficult for families to make ends meet. I am grateful to the County Department of Transportation and the Manna Food Center for this important effort and I encourage residents to donate non-perishable food items as they use buses next week.