Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced a series of measures that he hopes will spur job creation and help businesses that have struggled financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The new efforts include the forgiveness of $75 million in emergency loans provided to businesses early in the pandemic and an executive order to prevent small businesses from seeing their unemployment taxes skyrocket. In addition, the state will spend $37 million for the construction of affordable housing.
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“While we continue to wait for Congress to finally get its act together, today, we are taking a series of additional state actions to help businesses struggling to hang on to avoid the prospect of more layoffs and to try to keep some businesses from going out of business,” Hogan said during a news conference. “During this crisis, our small businesses have had to make very difficult decisions to move ahead with layoffs and furloughs despite their best efforts.”
The measures come as the state, like much of the country, experiences a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases. Maryland has reported more than 2,000 daily cases of COVID-19 for 20 straight days.
Under the effort targeting the unemployment tax increases, an employer’s 2021 tax rate will be calculated using fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019, instead of 2020. The governor’s office expects this measure to help employers avoid layoffs.
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The loan forgiveness measure will benefit businesses that received assistance during the first round of economic relief in March.
Hogan said $25 million of the $37 million designated for affordable housing initiatives will be used to finance 2,000 high-quality, low-income housing units. The Republican governor said that is the largest number of units the state has financed in one year.
Hogan also announced $94 million in efforts to help residents manage their prediabetes or diabetes during the public health crisis. The state estimates that more than 34% of its population has either prediabetes or diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Thursday, Maryland’s total coronavirus case count stood at 225,855. That’s 3,202 more than during the previous day. State figures show at least 4,850 have died from COVID-19.