Letters to the Editor, Dec. 23, 2020

Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools W. David Bromwell

DCPS: Hope and trepidation
As we approach the holiday break and the new year, I look ahead with hope but also trepidation. With the introduction of a COVID vaccine, the big picture for 2021 looks positive but the short term looks far less certain.
The plan for Dorchester County Public Schools, as it now stands, is to remain at our present status when we resume after the holiday break. Staff and students are to return asynchronously on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, and the small groups now in school buildings will return to their buildings on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.

This means that the first week of school in 2021 will be a continuance of the present status with DCTC students, small groups of special needs students, those with connectivity issues, identified struggling learners, and children of DCPS staff learning in-person. All other A, B, and C group students will continue learning online. Presently, our positivity rate and case rate remain higher than recommended for increased student attendance in schools.

Of course, like all decisions, this plan depends upon Dorchester County’s COVID metrics over the holiday break, along with the advice of Chief Health Officer Roger Harrell. He and I will continue to monitor the situation over the next two weeks and I will make an announcement at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 confirming plans for the week of Jan. 4, 2021. At that time, I also hope to be able to make an announcement regarding the week of Jan. 11, 2021.
I recognize the toll this uncertainty takes and hope for good news in Jan. that will allow us to have more students back in the school buildings, learning in-person. However, I also reaffirm my commitment to always act in the best interest of the community, students, and staff to keep everyone safe.

I see this holiday break as one of our most important that I can ever remember. Our children, parents, caregivers, community and DCPS staff deserve a much-needed time to disconnect and relax our minds as the pandemic continues. Please be extra safe during your holiday planning as again, DCPS wishes to increase student attendance upon our return in 2021.
W. David Bromwell
Superintendent of Schools
Dorchester County

Pandemic struggles
Many households keep an emergency fund for those “just in case” times. On the days when your car dies, your furnace stops or the air conditioning quits, you’re glad to have a reserve for the unexpected financial burden. Battling a worldwide health pandemic has become the ultimate “just in case” time for many Marylanders and our state’s Rainy Day Fund.

For months, I have urged Governor Hogan to use the fund of more than $1 billion to help Marylanders who are struggling, and our employers keep our families receiving paychecks. Using the Rainy Day Fund could help prevent evictions and foreclosures and provide cash assistance for basic necessities until a second federal government stimulus package passes. Tapping into these resources along with half-billion revenue fund balance and the remaining CARES Act federal dollars would ensure these families and small businesses survive the long, cold winter.

While our recent Dec. Board of Revenue Estimates report projects Maryland’s economy being healthier than expected, it highlights how our lowest wage earners and small businesses continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. The overall report reflects the strong bones of our state’s economy and our ability to weather tough times. However, it doesn’t tell the tale of many individuals, families and businesses trying to weather the toughest financial times of their lives.
Our small businesses, unemployed citizens, and working families, especially in our minority communities, need financial assistance now. Our Latino and African-American communities and women, who disproportionally work in industries suffering the most, are bearing the brunt of this pandemic not only with their health, but also with their lack of wealth. Disproportionately more minorities are dying from COVID and losing their jobs.

Our data shows that just during the second quarter of 2020, when compared to the same time period in 2019, big businesses – measured by sales tax that represent our top 0.1 percent or just 61 businesses — are reporting an increase of 32 percent in sales.
Our smaller businesses – or 99.1 percent of our state’s businesses – are seeing drops in receipts of about 11 percent on average. In fact, also during this same time period, the State of Maryland lost 11,634 sales tax accounts.
While big box stores and Amazon thrive, we’re seeing “closed” signs as we drive down the Main Streets of our towns and communities. It’s grossly unfair for small business owners, who are unable to wield the resources of bigger corporations.

Maryland has more than 170,000 small businesses and we estimate about 30,000 have either closed or will close their doors forever — through no fault of their own due to the pandemic’s toll. It’s expected that 10,000 restaurants nationwide will close permanently by year’s end.
With the General Assembly opening Jan. 13, I will continue to push state legislators and the governor for more help for Marylanders. We can continue to keep talking about it, or, we can start putting our rhetoric into action. It’s time to use the Rainy Day Fund. For Marylanders, it’s not only raining, it’s pouring. Maryland’s families and business need cover.
Peter Franchot
Comptroller of the State of Maryland
Annapolis