CommunityWilliam J. Ford

Hogan Orders Budget, Hiring Freeze Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday a budget and hiring freeze in the state as it combats the global coronavirus pandemic.

With Maryland now at nearly 7,000 confirmed cases, the majority of the state’s spending will fight the virus that includes $2 million with Bloomberg Philanthropies and Johns Hopkins University into the therapeutic uses of plasma from recovered patients to save lives of those infected with the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“The spread of this deadly virus is wreaking havoc on our national and state economies, on small businesses, on struggling Americans and the people of our state,” Hogan said during a press conference in Annapolis. “The state is immediately instituting a budget freeze on all state spending across all government agencies. The exceptions are COVID-19-related expenses and payroll necessary to support our employees.”

More than an hour before Hogan’s press conference in the State House, state Comptroller Peter Franchot announced the state could lose projected revenue of up to $2.8 billion for fiscal year 2020. It would represent a 50 percent decrease over the next three months and 15 percent reduction for the fiscal year, which ends July 1.

Hogan’s office recently received 679 pieces of legislation from state lawmakers to sign, which some Hogan said are substantial increases in state spending. His office hasn’t reviewed the bills passed in the abruptly shortened session that ended March 18, nearly three weeks earlier than scheduled.

“It is very unlikely that any bills that require increased spending will be signed into law,” he said. “The state will be tapping into and spending much, perhaps, all of the state’s [$50 million] rainy day fund balance.”

By the end of the day Friday, Fran Phillips, deputy secretary of the state’s Health Department, said more than 400 Marylanders will have recovered and released from isolation.

“They have tremendous stories to tell. I have spoken directly to many of them and are tremendously relieved and grateful to the care that they got and … they can spend this holiday weekend with their families,” she said.

Those stories can be shared voluntarily through a state “Covid Connect” program that could not only help others currently hospitalized and away from their families, but Phillips said also in possibly research for health professionals.

Meanwhile, the governor announced he ratified the state Board of Elections proposal for the June 2 primary election.

According to the proclamation, the election will be done by mail with at least one voting center in each county and Baltimore City open for any voter to cast a ballot or return a vote-by-mail ballot. The board of elections also incorporate a guideline for persons who didn’t receive a ballot in the mail to vote in person.

But state officials still encourage the majority of voters to mail in their tallies.

“In those rare cases where people must vote in person, significant social distancing practices must be implemented,” he said.

The governor also stressed for residents to stay at home, even on Easter Sunday, though he proclaimed the Easter Bunny as an essential worker to hop across the state and deliver baskets to children.

“I will miss sharing Easter with my kids and grandkids seeing them hunt for Easter eggs. I will particularly miss not eating all of their Easter candy,” he said. “It is currently unsafe to have church services or to host holiday gatherings. The way we celebrate this weekend will be very different, but that in no way should diminish the promise of Easter which celebrates the resurrection after a period of suffering and sacrifice. Easter really is a day of hope which is something that all of us could desperately use right now.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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