April 27, 2020

I hope that you and your family are staying safe and healthy. As we fight this virus, I want to update you on what we’re doing as Team Maryland to get through this together and provide information on how to access assistance if you need it.

The good news: Marylanders are coming together while apart -- I hear inspiring stories every day about neighbors looking out for each other, and everyone rallying to support our frontline healthcare workers. 

The hard news: parts of our state have become COVID-19 hotspots. To handle the surge and look toward reopening our state, we need increased testing capacity, medical supplies, and protective equipment -- and continued assistance to unemployed workers, small businesses, and non-profit organizations so people can stay home and avoid transmitting the disease.

To understand and meet the needs of communities across our state, I’ve been holding daily virtual meetings with leaders and communities across Maryland -- health care and education officials, county and municipal governments, faith leaders, frontline workers, seniors, and non-profit and business groups. These discussions convince me that together, Marylanders will get through this crisis.

Congress passed "Coronavirus Phase 3.5" legislation last week to address several urgent priorities, and we're continuing to fight for others. We're pushing the Trump Administration to create a national testing strategy and fully utilize the Defense Production Act to increase the availability of necessary equipment.

Here are specific steps we're taking as Team Maryland to help Marylanders, including additional measure in the bill passed last week:


Many of you have experienced extreme frustration as you’ve tried to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Grants (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). I worked to address some of those concerns in the Senate bill, and am continuing to push the Treasury Department to cut red tape to help the business that are most impacted by shut-down orders. 

Paycheck Protection Program: The Phase 3.5 bill increases PPP funding by $310 billion, and the program resumed accepting applications today. I encourage anyone who needs this assistance to apply quickly. To prevent tipping the scales in favor of big companies, we set aside $60 billion in the new bill to be lent through smaller financial institutions, such as credit unions, community banks, minority depository institutions, and community development financial institutions. This provision is designed to help mom-and-pop businesses, minority- and women-owned businesses, and small farms that might not have a direct line to a commercial bank.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans: We provided support for an additional $350 billion in EIDL loans and made sure that small farms are eligible. I encourage anyone who needs this assistance to apply quickly.

Emergency Economic Injury Grants: We secured an additional $10 billion for these grants in the EIDL program. You can get the $10,000 grant by applying for an EIDL Loan. It does not have to be repaid, even if you do not meet the conditions to ultimately receive an EIDL loan.

Work sharing: Maryland has an innovative work sharing program, and we secured federal funding to cover the full cost of expanding it. I encourage employers facing layoffs to consider this program. Find more information here

Remaining challenges: Despite the progress made in Phase 3.5, we still need to fix problems that are preventing some small businesses, including many restaurants, from making effective use of PPP funds. For example, the 60-day forgivable loan period is not aligned with the time many businesses can expect to see customers return, and the Treasury Department rules put unreasonable limits on the share of PPP funds that can be used for fixed expenses like rent. I will continue fighting to improve these critical programs.

For more information: See my Small and Medium Business & Non-profit Guide to the CARES Act for information on these programs and others.

Speeding Up Unemployment Assistance

Unemployment insurance (UI): I share the frustration of the many Marylanders who are having difficulty accessing unemployment benefits and the state’s new application website, which launched Friday. My team and I have been in touch with the Maryland Department of Labor repeatedly, and we will keep monitoring and offering all possible assistance until these issues are fixed.

Congress previously expanded UI to more workers, increased the amount of unemployment payments workers can receive by $600 per week, extended benefits by 13 weeks, and provided funds to help states process applications and get checks out faster.


Your benefits, including the additional $600/week, will be backdated and paid based on your original eligibility date, so you will ultimately receive the help you urgently need. However, the backlog and delays are causing severe cash flow problems for many households.


Unemployment insurance applicants, please note: 

  • If you are newly eligible for unemployment benefits in Maryland, such as independent contractors, I encourage you to apply at the State of Maryland's new unemployment website, MDunemployment.com. Select “Apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits” in the left hand column. This will take you to the BEACON one-stop application page.
  • The State's new, one-stop unemployment insurance application is designed to allow Marylanders to file claims for all unemployment programs entirely online. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, and those who were previously required to file by phone like federal employees, members of the military, individuals who have worked in multiple states, and those who have worked for more than 3 employers in the last 18 months.
  • If you have questions for the unemployment office, try reviewing their FAQ page before calling, because the phone hold times are very long.

Fighting the Virus

We continue to prioritize stopping the spread of the virus and ensuring that frontline healthcare providers are equipped to respond. The most recent legislation (Phase 3.5) adds an additional $75 billion to the $100 billion fund for hospitals, community health centers, senior care facilities and other health care providers. Importantly, this legislation also includes $25 billion to help build out a rapid national COVID-19 testing capability. 

Scientists and public health leaders agree: we can only get the virus under control, manage future outbreaks, and safely reopen our economy with a robust national strategy that expands access to COVID-19 testing.

The next bill must build on this down payment to dramatically expand the national production and distribution of all the elements needed for a rapid, national testing capability, including a sufficient supply of swabs, transport kits, and reagents.

Next Steps

While the additional relief in Phase 3.5 is urgently needed, the bill left out several important priorities.

Many families need increased food aid, but Republicans in the Senate blocked additional relief. In addition, our state and local governments, and the emergency responders on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, are experiencing severe revenue losses and need more help. 

While the CARES Act provided an important $150 billion down payment to support state and local governments, more is needed. And there are counterproductive restrictions on the use of the funds. I was appalled to hear Senator McConnell recklessly suggest that states and municipalities could just declare bankruptcy – we should be helping them support first responders, firefighters, and the many daily services our local governments provide. Providing additional and more flexible assistance to state and local governments must be a priority in the next relief bill.

We need to end the digital divide that further deepens inequality in our schools. Too many of our students haven't had access to the internet at home to do homework -- and now to do their daily schoolwork.

I was pleased to help lead the effort in the CARES Act to ensure that emergency funds for our schools can be used to provide students with internet access and devices. But the next round of legislation needs a larger pool of funds dedicated exclusively to building out high-speed internet access to every household. Like electricity in the 20th century, we should have universal access to high speed internet in the twenty-first. 

Americans overwhelmingly want our country to come together to solve these problems. We need to start work on the next major coronavirus relief bill immediately. There is so much more to do to ensure that the recovery, when it comes, lifts everyone – especially those too often left behind in the past.

There are tough days ahead, but I believe the determination and generosity of spirit of our fellow Marylanders will see us through this crisis to better days.


          Chris Van Hollen

To learn more about Senator Van Hollen's work to address the COVID-19 crisis, visit vanhollen.senate.gov/coronavirus.

During the coronavirus crisis, many federal funds have been distributed to Maryland based on our population. It’s a reminder of the importance of getting yourself counted! If you have not already done so, please head to my2020census.gov to fill out the questionnaire right away, or do it by phone or mail. It takes less than ten minutes for most people.

Protections and Resources for Marylanders

In case you missed our last newsletter, here are some helpful resources. And you can always reach out to us if you need help with federal agencies or programs. You may call my office at 301-545-1500 or email assistance@vanhollen.senate.gov.

  • No evictions: The state has ordered that no Maryland family or business who suffered a substantial loss of income due to COVID-19 or related closures can be evicted during the coronavirus state of emergency. The obligation to make rent and mortgage payments remains. Landlords may continue to file failure to pay rent cases, which will be considered after the state of emergency ends.
  • No repossessions: Marylanders’ cars, mobile homes, trailers, and house boats cannot be repossessed during the coronavirus emergency. The obligation to make rent and mortgage payments remains. Landlords may continue to file failure to pay rent cases, which will be considered after the state of emergency ends.
  • Senior citizens seeking information and resources on COVID-19 can click here.
  • To find school meals nearby, visit the Maryland State Department of Education’s meals site.
  • To find child care, call Maryland’s LOCATE referral system at 1-877-261-0060, or click here.
  • For temporary cash assistance to families with dependent children, click here.
  • For state small business help (separate from the Federal programs listed above), click here.