July 28, 2022

Message from the County Executive

Dear Friends, 

The vote counting continues and the heatwave seems to have relented a bit for now. I want to thank all our workers, including our government employees, who continued working outside in the heat and serving our community. I also want to express my appreciation to the staff and volunteers of the Board of Elections for their efforts to go through tens of thousands of ballots. They are working long hours doing meticulous work to finalize the election results.

“It Can’t Be Done Alone” - Tree of Hope Opens in Rockville

This week, we celebrated the grand opening of the Tree of Hope in Rockville at Montgomery County’s first substance use disorder recovery community drop-in center. Tree of Hope has worked closely with community organizations that focus on improving the lives of people, and their families, who are in the early stages of recovery. Tree of Hope fills a growing need to support people impacted by substance abuse. According to the CDC and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, deaths attributed to opioids, fentanyl, meth and alcohol all increased since the start of the pandemic. Opioids alone accounted for close to 75 percent of more than 100,000 fatal drug overdoses nationwide in 2021. Maryland had an opioid crisis before the pandemic began that got worse during those months of isolation—with close to 2,000 opioid deaths last year and nearly as many blamed on its synthetic cousin fentanyl.

Helping people overcome addiction is hard work and requires commitment, dedication, and discipline. Even when people receive significant support to get clean and sober, remaining drug-free is a difficult challenge to overcome. The Tree of Hope center brings together core services that help their clients remove obstacles to employment, health care and housing resulting from addiction.

Take Precautions, This Heatwave is Dangerous

This past week, we felt the heat of summer in full force. It was so hot that the National Weather Service issued a Heat Advisory for three days in a row. If these extreme temperatures return, please know that we offer our library branches and recreation centers as air-conditioned places to go for respite from the heat.

The record heat we are witnessing is another sign of the rapid pace of climate change and the urgent need to find solutions to these extreme weather events. We have recently partnered with NOAA as part of the national campaign to track “urban heat islands.” Check out this WJLA story on this program and how you can volunteer to help.

In the meantime, please take extra precautions if you work outside or spend long amounts of time outdoors. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to the early morning or late evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke which include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Flushed skin
Young children and pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle for any length of time. Make sure children, pets, and the elderly have access to air conditioning and plenty of cool water. And please remember to sign up for “Alert Montgomery” communications to get notified of any extreme weather or dangerous conditions.

Montgomery County COVID-19 Community Level Returns to “HIGH”

Earlier this week, Montgomery County rose from a community level status of medium to a high level.

Our case counts continue to hover around 250 cases per 100,000 residents. The percent of staffed inpatient beds devoted to Covid patients in the County is now at 10 percent and the hospital admission rate is 12.7 per 100,000 people. In March we were down to less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents. Both hospitalization figures were less than half of what they are today.

If you feel sick get tested. If you need a test, stop at any of our library branches to pick up free COVID tests. If you’re exposed to someone who tests positive, isolate until you can test yourself. If you test positive prepare for a minimum of at least 5 days of isolation and I’d recommend staying in isolation until you’ve tested negative again.

Another important recommendation, because the community level status is high, is to wear a mask indoors in public spaces and on public transportation. The CDC says it’s a good preventative measure to slow the spread of the virus. It’s why you can still pick up free N95 masks at any library and some community centers across Montgomery County.

Please protect yourself and stay up to date on your vaccines and boosters. Let’s do everything we can to slow the spread and not put lives in danger.

Rent Relief Portal Reopens

Montgomery County has reopened its portal for more COVID-related rental relief. The latest round of rental relief grant money is available to those who are two months or more behind on their rent because of a COVID-19 related reason. Please click here to apply.

As expected, there was a rush to get applications in before the end of June for the previous deadline with 1,157 applications arriving just prior to the deadline. In just 45 days, more than 4,000 applicants sought assistance.

We’re still processing those applications, but you should know they’re not being done on a first come, first served basis. We are still assessing how best to spend the $25 million dollars available in aid. Sadly, we are seeing some people who didn’t apply come to us with eviction notices. We’re trying to help them when we can as well.

Please call 311 for more information about whether you qualify, how to check on the status of an application, or how to start and continue an application that was not completed and submitted.

Rent Stabilization is Needed ASAP

This week I joined CASA on the steps of the County Council to support my temporary rent stabilization bill before the Council heard testimony from more than a dozen speakers who talked about the challenges they would face if their rents go up substantially as some landlords and property managers have indicated will happen. Other renters are finding out after years in the same place that their leases won’t be renewed, which is why we’ve been pushing to pass a just-cause eviction law at the state level. Enormous rent increases and arbitrary lease terminations threaten family stability.

My proposal would set limits for rent increases at 4.4% for six months. We must make sure the people living in buildings most vulnerable for redevelopment are protected. People making the least amount of money can’t be priced out of their homes. Middle income renters can’t be expected to suddenly devote so much of their monthly budget to housing. My proposal would provide for reasonable increases.

The earliest the Council could act on this proposal is in September when they return from their recess. I hope they will act as soon as they return, and I appreciate Councilmember Jawando’s support for this effort. With every month that passes without legislative action, more residents are at risk of losing their homes. Skyrocketing rents can displace people and cause homelessness, which we need to avoid as much as possible.

New Electrification Standards Needed to Combat Climate Change

Also this week, the County Council heard discussion for the first time on my plan for new building electrification standards. If passed the bill would enact those new laws by 2024.

This legislation complements the Green Building code and the Building Energy Performance Standards, known as BEPS, which passed earlier this year. Together these initiatives will revamp the building sector, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gases.

Natural gas would only be allowed in special circumstances when new construction or major renovation is being considered. Older technologies would be replaced with things like electric heat pumps, electric water heating equipment, or electric cooking elements.

Making this move can make financial sense for families. Experts say energy prices will continue to rise because costs are up by an average of 50 percent. Coal, natural gas, and crude oil are all costing consumers more compared to 2021. The passage of Bill 13-22 will help lay a smart framework for the future. We await the Council’s decision in September.

IgnITehub update – Cooling Off with Some Coding

A successful partnership with MCPS and Montgomery College is ignITehub. IgniTehub has become our area’s new home for coding and information technology education.

IgnITehub is an extension of the Montgomery Can Code program. Every year business leaders from our community give their time to help middle school students on summer break. Students learn how to build apps and these future leaders see how today’s companies incorporate programs and technology into their business plans.

This year employees from Advancing Synergy, Lion Solutions, MOC 1 Solutions, United Solutions, Washington Software and Brothers Academy shared their expertise and experience. We thank them for helping our MCPS students understand the importance of computer skills.

I'm also proud of this summer's “Montgomery Can Code” participants. There are more than 1,000 students in the program. We can't wait to see these lessons put into practice in the years ahead. We know that we couldn't have gotten companies like Apple on board for a project like ignITehub without the success of programs like Montgomery Can Code.

I also want to thank the Montgomery County Council for the Special Appropriation they made just this week to spend $260,000 from the general fund to support ignITehub.

Supporting our Local Food and Beverage Businesses

This week I stopped by the Montgomery Food Council’s “MoCo Made Food and Beverage Expo” in Silver Spring. This event allowed local food enthusiasts to network with, learn about, and get a sneak peek at the latest local food and beverages offerings and businesses based in Montgomery County.

I really enjoyed this event and meeting with incredible county business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs. Of course, I also enjoyed sampling some of their products.

Spending your money with local food and beverage businesses is very important to our county’s economy. For every $100 spent at a local business, $68 dollars stays in our community – more than twice the amount than non-county owned businesses. Buying local also helps create more jobs in our County and provides more opportunities for women and minority business owners.

I want to thank the Montgomery Food Council for this great event and encourage you to shop, eat, and buy local. For more information and suggestions on where to shop and dine at Montgomery County food and beverage businesses, check out our “MoCo Eats” page on the Visit Montgomery website.

Next Tuesday is National Night Out!

Finally, I want to acknowledge an important date coming up next week for our communities and law enforcement agencies. National Night Out is happening on Tuesday evening, August 2nd. These events bring together neighbors, community safety advocates, and the patrol officers who work their neighborhoods.

National Night Out events are happening all over Montgomery County from Silver Spring to Olney, Germantown to Rockville and many places in between. Click here for the schedule of National Night Out events around the County.

As always, my appreciation for all of you do,

Marc Elrich
County Executive