ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After four of Maryland's most populous jurisdictions began once again closing down or restricting businesses, many thought Governor Larry Hogan would follow suit Thursday.
That turned out to not be the case, and in fact Hogan said he wasn't sure why those decisions were made as it doesn't "compute" with information medical experts have provided him.
Most notably the Governor said closing outdoor dining isn't a decision he would've made, but understands leaders have that discretion.
The Governor did however announce several financial investments and initiatives, as many continue to struggle and experience economic hardship.
Hogan signed an executive order banning any sudden unemployment tax hikes on Maryland businesses.
In March Maryland released $75 million in emergency loans.
Thursday's order converts the loans to grants, which forgives that debt.
The National Federation of Independent Business applauded the move, but says it won't prevent business owners from still having to pay hefty unemployment taxes in 2021.
“Unfortunately, Maryland small business owners will still see their unemployment insurance premiums skyrocket next year," NFIB said in a statement. "Even an employer who did not have to lay off a single worker throughout all of 2020 will see an increase in their [unemployment] taxes from $25 per employee to $187 per employee. That is a seven-fold increase."
Aside from the unemployment tax order, Maryland is releasing $25 million towards low-income housing tax credit projects, which aims to construct 2,000 more affordable housing units.
On top of that, $12 million is being dedicated to the Rental Housing Works Program, which focuses on creating new construction jobs statewide.
Hogan highlighted the toll COVID-19 has taken on those diagnosed with diabetes, which affects one in three Maryland residents and is the number one co-morbidity rate linked to coronavirus, he says.
To help combat that, Hogan signed off on $94 million in new grants to help treat those people.
The Governor tackled recent concerns in state district courthouses, by giving $10 million towards PPE and protective barriers.
Part of that will also go towards rapid testing equipment for Maryland State Police and internet access for Baltimore City youth.
As of Thursday morning, Maryland reported the highest ever number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at 1,720.
Of those, 416 are in the ICU which equates to 87 percent occupancy, the highest level since June 6.
Read the new executive order below.
The entire announcement can be watched right here.