March 18, 2020   

Marylanders and all Americans are concerned about the coronavirus. 

I want to let you know what I’m working on in the Senate and across the state to help our communities and protect our residents. And you’re invited to join me for a Telephone Town Hall I am hosting with Dr. Leana Wen. We will update you on the fight against the coronavirus, both on the federal and state level. To join us, dial 855-962-1138 or join online at 6:30PM EST tonight (Wednesday). 

There are three main ways we are working to bolster our response to coronavirus: providing the resources our health care system needs to treat the sick and reduce the virus’ spread; coordinating across all levels of government to ensure resources and information are getting into the hands of those who need them; and directly helping families that are struggling to buy food and pay bills due to this crisis.

The legislation we passed two weeks ago was a critical “Phase 1” to shore up public health systems, provide funds to states, and enable a strategic government response (more on that bill below).

Now, after days of unnecessary delay, the Senate is finally poised to act on the “Phase 2” legislation passed by the House. This bill is an essential step to ensure free coronavirus testing, provide paid sick leave so that workers can stay home when they are ill, expand food assistance, and support emergency unemployment insurance. It will allow many workers to pay the rent and expenses even if they lose their job – an urgent matter given ongoing layoffs in the hospitality industries. 

While the Phase 2 package is not perfect, getting it done will be an important step forward. And we’re already at work on a much larger Phase 3 package of additional emergency measures that will get assistance to small businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, and help folks not covered by the previous legislation. 

This is an urgent matter. We should pass Phase 2 today and work to complete Phase 3 before the end of this week. 

As the Senate acts, I’m staying in continuous contact with health care leaders across our state, and federal officials involved in the response, to ensure that we’re taking care of the most vulnerable members of our community. You can find more details on all this below and at my coronavirus website

For medical information, regularly visit the CDC coronavirus website

For information on how the virus is affecting our state, visit the Maryland DOH coronavirus website. And if you feel ill or have individual questions, contact your health care provider.

We’ve all been frustrated with aspects of the federal response, including the slow ramp up of testing for the virus nationwide. We are working to make tests more widely available and make it easier for people who need testing to get it. But let’s be clear, we find ourselves needing to make up for lost time.

Before the crisis, the Trump Administration dismantled the White House global health security and biodefense office specifically established to prepare for and quarterback the response to pandemics. Early in the outbreak, Trump’s complacency allowed the virus to get an 8-to-10 week head start. For way too long, the President downplayed the crisis and engaged in dangerous happy talk. He must allow health care officials to lead the response and keep the public informed.

We’re headed in the right direction now, with Congress working in a bipartisan way with health care and economic officials at all levels of government to address this crisis. 

Communities across our country are pulling together to help each other and stay safe. As we each do what we need to do to respond effectively and slow the spread of the virus in our communities, I’ll continue to keep you updated.


          Chris Van Hollen

Still here to serve you: A note on how my offices are operating

To follow the guidance of public health officials and ensure the safety of constituents and staff due to COVID-19, the majority of my staff will be teleworking until further notice. As a result, our offices will be closed to the public, but all phone lines will remain fully open and fully staffed. Constituents seeking assistance can reach our constituent services teams at: (301) 545-1500. Those with general questions or concerns about federal policy can reach our Capitol Hill team at: (202) 224-4654. Urgent issues for my office can be emailed to

Providing the resources for a strategic response to treat the sick and limit the virus’ spread

I fought to pass an $8.3 billion emergency funding package in Congress, which the President signed into law on March 6. That initial comprehensive package provides our state and local governments with financial support to address this public health emergency. It contains critical resources for the research, development, and approval of a potential vaccine, treatments, and diagnostics – work that is being done at Maryland’s NIH and FDA facilities.

Additionally, the legislation provides funding to support preparedness at our hospitals and health centers, to bolster their capacity to handle coronavirus on the frontlines. Lastly, the bill includes critical initial support for small businesses suffering financial losses due to the outbreak – a provision I worked to include after hearing the concerns of Maryland small business owners.

Since passing the "Phase 1" funding package, I’ve worked to ensure that any vaccines or treatments developed for COVID-19 are affordable and accessible to all.

Ensuring resources and information are getting to those who need them

Maryland announced its first cases of COVID-19 on March 5, 2020. On that day, my Maryland Congressional colleagues and I announced $500,000 in federal funding to support our state's response -- and we just got $10.2 million more.

The next day, March 6, I visited the National Institutes of Health to hear directly from the scientists working to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and spoke to the public to share what I learned.

Since then, I have been in contact with Governor Hogan, the Maryland Department of Health, state health care leaders and county and local officials to ensure they’re getting the support they need.

Multiple federal agencies have a role in combating the virus. I’ve worked with my colleagues on actions such as asking the Department of Health and Human Services to keep the public informed on its response; pressing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect our food and medicine, and its employees; and asking the FDA about how it’s working to prevent potential drug shortages related to coronavirus.

Many Marylanders work for the federal government and I’ve acted to protect them by urging the President to immediately maximize telework for federal employees, building on my earlier request to the Social Security Administration, a major employer in Maryland, to maximize telework. I’ve also called on OPM to guarantee protections for federal workers and contractors complying with coronavirus response, and pushed Metro to prioritize employee and rider safety during this crisis.

Directly helping families that are struggling due to this crisis

Workers should be able to stay home if they’re sick, need to be with a child home from school, or need to care for a sick family member -- and they should be able to do so without fearing they’ll lose their job or paycheck. Individuals laid off due to the coronavirus need to be able to quickly access unemployment insurance payments.

These are among the measures I have been pushing for and I was pleased they were included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is now poised to pass the Senate.

Still, we must dramatically expand on both the paid leave provisions and the unemployment provisions in that bill. For example, workers in the gig economy are not adequately protected by the unemployment compensation systems, and unemployment benefits must last at least as long as the coronavirus persists. And we must help small businesses who have lost customers because of the coronavirus and can’t pay their workers or cover expenses. 

Moreover, we must implement a host of other measures, including my request that financial regulators help mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus on workers in the hospitality and tourism industry.

I have also called on other employers to offer flexibility due to the coronavirus.

To help Marylanders struggling to pay the bills, I pushed to get financial institutions to waive fees and provide extra time to pay loans for consumers who may be suffering financially due to the virus.

To help our state’s small businesses, I encouraged Governor Hogan to make use of federal resources to help restaurants, small manufacturers, and other firms with coronavirus preparedness & response.

These are among the many additional measures we must take in the coming days. 

For a full list of my actions to address the coronavirus, visit