By BRIAN WITTE Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered nonessential businesses to close Monday in response to the coronavirus, as he announced a relief package of more than $175 million to provide relief to small businesses and employees.
Hogan said the closing of nonessential businesses would take effect at 5 p.m. The order does not affect essential businesses defined by the federal government, including health care, food and agriculture, energy, law enforcement and public safety.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, talks about initiatives and funding Maryland is making available to help small businesses and employees hurt by the coronavirus’ impact on the economy during a news conference in Annapolis, Md., on Monday, March 23, 2020. Hogan also discussed plans to ask the federal government for more direct financial aid to the states in a conference call Monday with the White House. Kelly Schulz, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce is standing left, and Tiffany Robinson, secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, is standing right. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
The governor also announced a variety of relief initiatives to help small businesses and workers.
The Maryland Department of Commerce will offer up to $125 million in loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits through an emergency relief fund. A $75 million loan fund and a $50 million grant fund is aimed at providing working capital for payroll, rent and other operating costs.
The Maryland Department of Labor is making about $7 million available to help small businesses retain their workforce, Hogan said.
Hogan, who is chairman of the National Governors Association, also said he would take part in a conference call with other governors and the White House on Monday afternoon.
He said officials were focused on protecting health and the economy.
“Both of these battles are going to take all of us at the federal, state and local levels and the private sector rising to this challenge and working together,” Hogan said.
Hogan also announced a $5 million fund to provide incentives to Maryland businesses to manufacture masks, personal equipment and other supplies to help meet immediate demands of health care workers.
Maryland has had 288 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and three deaths.
The governor also announced steps to add hospital beds. He noted plans to turn the Baltimore Convention Center into an alternate care site.
He also announced a pilot coronavirus drive-thru screening location at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The governor also said he has enacted an emergency order to authorize a fast-track process to bring more testing capacity online.
Hogan also said the state will take stronger enforcement actions against people who gather in groups of more than 10 people. He said the state was not ordering shelter-in-place, but that all state residents are urged to remain home and employers are urged to promote work-from-home arrangements as much as possible.
“Let me repeat once again as strongly as I possibly can: if you are engaged in this kind of activity you are breaking the law, and you are literally endangering the lives of your family, your friends and your fellow citizens,” Hogan said.
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