MILLERSVILLE, MD — Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman launched three initiatives Thursday to help locals weather the coronavirus fallout. The programs will help residents pay bills, find resources and cope with virus-related deaths.
The first initiative looks to help struggling families pay their water bills. Pittman announced the relief effort at a press conference in front of a Millersville water tower.
About 20,000 county residents are behind on their water payements, Pittman said. That’s up 19,000 from this time last year, the county executive added.
“If we don’t help these people, they could not only have their water cut off, but the liens that we are required to put on their homes, and the subsequent foreclosure proceedings could leave them homeless,” Pittman said in a press release after the conference. “Helping to pay their bills is essential.”
Pittman recently bought time for these families by signing Executive Order 30. The mandate prohibited water shutoffs for nonpayment until Nov. 16.
The county will mail applications for the Water Bill Relief Program to residents who qualify. Interested applicants may also dial (410) 222-1144 or email email@example.com. TTY users should call Maryland Relay at 7-1-1.
Pittman also announced the COVID Care Coordination Program, an extension of the Department of Health’s contract tracing. The program’s case managers will reach out to people who test positive for coronavirus. The bilingual workers can help find food, shelter, housing, commodities and financial assistance.
The final initiative addresses the pandemic’s effects on mental health. This COVID Recovery and Grief Support Program will offer counseling to families who lost a loved one to coronavirus.
The extra money will bolster the mental health warm line, which has answered more calls during the pandemic. Residents can reach the line at (410) 768-5522.
“What we are experiencing is an increase in the number of individuals who are seeking additional mental health support, many of whom have financial barriers,” said Adrienne Mickler, the executive director of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency. “These funds will support urgent care appointments and follow up treatment.”
CARES Act Check-In
Pittman will fund his $2 million plan with money from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act. Anne Arundel County got $101.1 million in CARES Act funding after Congress passed the stimulus package in March.
The county executive’s announcement came hours before Gov. Larry Hogan announced his $250 million plan to keep Maryland’s small businesses afloat. Hogan stressed the importance of spending CARES Act money soon, noting that it expires at the end of the year.
Pittman said that Anne Arundel County has about $25 million to $30 million left in its CARES Act account. Residents can track the county’s coronavirus spending and find resources at this link. The website shows that Anne Arundel has about $52.2 million of CARES Act money remaining, but Pittman noted that the portal needs to be updated with the county’s latest expenditures.
The families said staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.
The families of some of the 73 residents residents who have died from COVID-19 while living at a Pennsylvania nursing home have filed a lawsuit against the facility, accusing it of recklessly handling the virus outbreak.
The families of 10 deceased residents teamed up with the families of five current residents at the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in a lawsuit against the nursing home, saying staff failed to take proper measures to stem the outbreak.
“They show clear evidence of poor infection control, poor training, poor supervision, transparency problems, cross-contamination, lack of supplies — it goes on and on,” Bob Daley, one of the attorneys representing the families, said Thursday. “What happened at Brighton was nothing short of a tragedy. … Brighton as an entity systematically failed its residents.”
The lawsuit names Brighton Rehab’s owners and its medical director and accuses leaders of “managerial and operational negligence, carelessness, recklessness and willful and wanton conduct,” according to the complaint. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
Brighton allegedly failed to separate infected residents from the general population, allowed infected workers to continue working and shared misinformation about the outbreak to family members and health officials, according to the suit.
Lawyers for the residents also claimed Brighton was severely understaffed during the pandemic, which forced workers to “cut corners while struggling to care for hundreds of residents during the pandemic,” according to the suit.
In response to the lawsuit, a Brighton spokesperson denied the claims and said the facility followed the guidance of local governmental health officials throughout the pandemic.
“Right now, the facility’s sole focus remains on ensuring the health and well-being of all residents and staff,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The facility has been
For 55 years, Head Start has stood by America’s children and families. Created as part of the War on Poverty, locally operated Head Start programs have prepared nearly 40 million children from at-risk backgrounds for success in school and life. Today, an unwavering bipartisan commitment from Congress enables Head Start programs across the nation to serve the educational, socio-emotional, health, and nutrition needs of more than 1 million children in safe, nurturing environments.
Fortunately, while COVID-19 has shut down many valuable forces in American life, it hasn’t stopped Head Start. In the months since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in the United States, Head Start staff have been working in overdrive to adapt their teaching strategies, sanitize classrooms, make necessary health-related adjustments to facilities, and provide access to quality online and other remote learning opportunities for children and families from at-risk backgrounds ― all while grappling with rising COVID-19 operational costs.
Head Start families are expressing relief that their programs have remained steadfast in their efforts to keep children healthy and prepare them for success in school and life. One Head Start parent in California shared that her program is “incorporating outdoor activity and keeping children on track. They are educating the children about why they cannot visit family and friends. They are supporting parents in managing working from home and helping our children learn at home. Our Head Start program has gone above and beyond in supporting our children.”
This fall, as more Head Start programs are engaged in reopening their classrooms safely, they are confronting the true cost of operating in the COVID-19 era. From PPE for children and staff to increased hours for janitorial staff to additional mental health services for children coping with this new trauma, Head Start programs are facing a funding shortfall that will soon impact the children and families they are supporting in navigating this crisis.
Since the start of COVID-19, Head Start programs have pivoted in countless innovative ways: conducting online classrooms, donning PPE and making home visits to check on children, erecting elaborate screening barriers and devising creative bus routes, arranging contactless health screenings and food drops — doing everything physically and financially possible to ensure children and families living on the margins aren’t pushed further to the edge. Head Start never stopped working.
That’s why Congress and the administration must not stop, either. They can start by making sure Head Start programs have the critical resources necessary to reopen classrooms safely. Based on extensive surveying of Head Start providers, the National Head Start Association estimates operational costs will increase by up to 20 percent this year as individual programs adapt and respond to the pandemic. That’s why the Head Start community has been advocating to Congress for at least $1.7 billion in emergency funding to keep up with COVID-19-related costs — PPE for teachers, IT upgrades to support virtual learning, facility adaptations, additional staff hours to meet smaller classroom ratios for social distancing, and many other needs.
Lack of emergency