Salisbury announces pandemic bounce-back plans

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day on Monday announced a plan designed to help city renters, first responders, low-income residents, businesses and houses of worship get back on their feet as the state begins to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city’s Next Step plan provides immediate relief and protection to residents and business owners, Day said during a news conference.

“Today we face a future that we couldn’t have imagined just a few short months ago,” he said. “And it’s only by prioritizing the health, safety and prosperity of every citizen that we will begin to shape this new future.”

The plan takes aim at landlords in the city, some of whom Day has singled out in recent weeks for conducting illegal evictions and adding to the Salisbury’s homeless population in the midst of a public health crisis.

The mayor has proposed barring rent increases during states of emergency and to require landlords to refund any increases that went into effect after Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on March 5.

Day said the city will also require landlords to send letters to their tenants notifying them of their right to stay on the property until a court order removes them.

City Council members are expected to approve the rental property measure at their next meeting.

Also as part of the Next Step plan is a proposed city property tax credit for all full-time Salisbury Police Department and Salisbury Fire Department employees as well as volunteer firefighters with the city. The credits of up to $2,500 would be granted only on properties within the city limits that serve as their principal residences.

The tax credits are also expected to win council approval.

Day also outlined other initiatives the city will take:

  • $105,000 to help pay the rent for anyone who lost their job due to the pandemic;
  • $10,000 for personal protection equipment, hand sanitizer and 5,000 face masks for low-income residents;
  • $15,000 for food for low-income families;
  • $87,000 for acrylic barriers to be provided at no cost to small businesses;
  • $8,000 for Covid-19 informational material to be printed in Spanish, Creole, Korean, and Braille;
  • 12-month payment plans for city taxes and water bills;
  • Order to make all city parks available for outdoor worship services.

Day also announced he is establishing task forces to focus on vulnerable populations and workers protections.

Countywide recovery plan

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver announced that county government facilities will reopen to the public on Wednesday, May 27.

Last Friday, city and county officials released the Salisbury-Wicomico Roadmap to Recovery to coincide with the start of Phase 1 of the governor’s business reopening plan.

Over the last 10 weeks, officials with Salisbury, Hebron, Delmar, Fruitland, Wicomico County, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, and the Greater Salisbury Committee have been in constant communication and began planning for reopening the community.

“We encourage all businesses to review this document and use it as one tool to help reduce risk of spreading Covid-19 to customers and employees,”

The plan outlines how businesses in 10 sectors can prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus through various methods, including cleaning, ventilation, social distancing and wearing masks.

Under the state’s Roadmap to Recovery, the governor announced last week that Phase I of the reopening plan could begin Friday at 5 p.m.

The order included moving from a Stay at Home order to a Safer at Home public health advisory and the gradual reopenings of retail, manufacturing, houses of worship, and some personal services.

The governor said Phase 1 will be implemented with a flexible, community-based approach that allows individual jurisdictions to make decisions regarding the timing of reopenings.

Under Phase 1, the following may reopen with certain restrictions:

  • Retail stores, pet groomers, animal shelters, car washes and art galleries may reopen at up to 50 percent capacity, with curbside pickup and delivery strongly encouraged.
  • Manufacturing may resume operations in a safe manner which protects the health of employees, with guidelines encouraging multiple shifts and other safety precautions.
  • Churches and houses of worship may begin to safely hold religious services, at up to 50 percent capacity, with outdoor services strongly encouraged.
  • Some personal services, including barbershops and hair salons, may reopen with up to 50 percent capacity, by appointment only and with appropriate health and safety guidelines.

If all goes well, the state will then shift to Phase 2 – considered medium risk – which would raise the cap on social gatherings, reopen gyms and fitness classes, reopen child-care centers, return transit schedules to normal, reopen indoor religious gatherings and reopen restaurants and bars with restrictions.

The final Phase 3 – or high risk – would allow larger social gatherings, high-capacity bars and restaurants, lessened restrictions on visits to nursing homes and hospitals, reopen entertainment venues and allow larger religious gatherings.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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