Categories
Montgomery County State

Pandemic likely contributed to overdose fatalities in Montgomery County, Maryland

Opioid-related deaths in Montgomery County increased 34% through the first quarter of 2020. Experts attribute the increase to pandemic related stressors and lack of access to treatment due to pandemic shutdowns.

According to preliminary data provided by the Vital Statistics Administration (VSA) of the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), there were significant increases in unintentional intoxication fatalities related to nearly all major drug categories in Maryland through the second calendar quarter of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has very likely contributed to and compounded these trends. Taken together, the associated social isolation, disruptions of support, impeded access to care, and economic distress have helped to create an extremely dangerous environment for those suffering from substance use disorder (SUD).

Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center – 2020 Second Quarter Report

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Categories
Government Montgomery County

Updates: Montgomery County Restaurant lawsuit against indoor dining ban will be heard Wednesday

The lawsuit against Montgomery County’s most recent indoor dining ban brought by the Restaurant Association of Maryland with several local restaurants signing on as Plaintiffs will be heard on Wednesday.

Despite contact tracing data showing that many cases within Montgomery County have come from indoor dining, as well as additional data and guidance from the CDC and elsewhere, these restaurants argue that there isn’t sufficient evidence to warrant indoor dining closure.

The restaurants who have signed on in the lawsuit are:

  • Silver Diner – Multiple locations
  • Outta the Way Cafe in Rockville
  • Gringos & Mariachis – Multiple locations
  • Olazzo – Multiple locations
  • Duck Duck Goose in Rockville
  • Trattoria Sorrento in Takoma Park
  • Social Heights Restaurant, LLC which owns Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda
  • DTI, LLC which includes restaurants like Cava Mezze
  • Medium Rare in Bethesda
  • Il Pizzico in Rockville
  • BTI Hospitality, LLC which includes owns Julii
  • Coty Group, LLC, Quincy Group, LLC, The Rat Pack of MD, LLC, The Rat Pack of MD II, LLC which owns Quincy’s South in Rockville
  • Bassett’s Restaurant in Poolesville
  • Raw Bar LLC in Baltimore
  • The Barking Dog in Bethesda
  • Potomac Pizza in Chevy Chase, Potomac, and Traville
  • Clementine Cafe in Chevy Chase
  • D.G. Holdings which owns Raku in Bethesda
  • Sheger Spring Cafe in Silver Spring
  • Palisades Lounge in Silver Spring
  • Barrell and Crow in Kensington
  • JMGM Group LLC which owns Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg
  • Clare, Inc which owns Lahinch Tavern in Potomac
  • Unique Asset, LLC which owns Persimmon in Bethesda
  • Tally-Ho Restaurant in Potomac

Correction: An earlier report listed RW Restaurants instead of Tommy Joe’s. This article has been corrected.

Categories
Federal Montgomery County State

Montgomery County Restaurants join Restaurant Association of Maryland’s lawsuit against Montgomery County

According to Bethesda Beat reporting, 35 restaurants in Montgomery County have signed on to the lawsuit brought forth by the Restaurant Association of Maryland. RAM successfully reversed a similar order in Anne Arundel County so they have moved to reverse orders in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.

I am very sympathetic to small businesses and how they are barely surviving during the pandemic, but to risk more lives is unconscionable. County health officials have analyzed contact tracing data to determine that enough cases of the coronavirus were transmitted during indoor dining to warrant suspending indoor dining. What we need is federal funding for small businesses, not corporations, and pandemic assistance to individuals so that they can afford to support small businesses. Montgomery County is facing a budget deficit due to funding several grants and programs related to the pandemic. I’ve argued previously that tax hikes are needed instead of austerity measures.

While 35 restaurants in the county have signed onto the lawsuit as Plaintiffs, only a few are currently known: Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, Duck Duck Goose in Bethesda, and Seibel’s Restaurant and UpTown Pub in Burtonsville.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Montgomery County State

Maryland SNAP Recipients can now use their EBT card to purchase groceries through Instacart

In October, Aldi and Instacart announced that they would begin accepting grocery orders for SNAP recipients through Instacart’s app.

If you receive SNAP benefits in Maryland, you can now use the service. You will need to have a debit or credit card attached to your account to pay for taxes, any non SNAP-eligible items, the delivery fee, and any driver tips.

To successfully use your EBT card, a credit or debit card must also be linked to your Instacart account to cover fees, bottle deposits in some states, taxes, delivery tips, and any other non-EBT SNAP-eligible items you may want to purchase.

Instacart

In addition to Instacart, you can purchase groceries online for delivery via Walmart’s app, Amazon, and ShopRite.

Categories
Education Elections Montgomery County

Shebra Evans wins re-election to Montgomery County Board of Education District 4 seat

Shebra Evans has won re-election to the Board of Education District 4 seat over challenger Steve Solomon by 80,169 votes. This was the highest margin between two candidates in any of the Board of Education races this year.

NameTotal VotesPercent
Shebra Evans172,82464.64%
Steve Solomon92,65534.66%
Write-ins1,882.70%
Results as of 9:55pm

Congratulations, Shebra!

Categories
Education Elections Montgomery County

Rebecca Smondrowski wins re-election to Montgomery County Board of Education District 2 seat

The race for the District 2 seat in the Montgomery County Board of Education race saw the least amount of total votes across all of the Board of Education races showing that voters weren’t really excited to vote for either candidate. Unofficial vote counts show that Rebecca Smondrowski beat challenger Michael Fryar by 51,799 votes to win re-election to the District 2 seat.

NameTotal VotesPercet
Michael Fryar105,16839.77%
Rebecca K. Smondrowski156,96759.36%
Write-ins2,287.86%
Results as of 9:55pm

Congratulations, Rebecca!

Categories
Education Elections Montgomery County

Lynne Harris wins election to Montgomery County Board of Education At-Large seat

The Montgomery County Board of Education race was one of the most controversial races I’ve ever seen in local politics. Two of the pro-equity candidates moved on from the Primary, Sunil Dasgupta and Lynne Harris. Unofficial vote counts were released by the Montgomery County Board of Elections last night showing that Lynne Harris has won by 23,280 votes.

NameTotal VotesPercent
Sunil Dasgupta127,07545.26%
Lynne Harris150,35553.55%
Write-ins3,3541.19%
Results as of 9:55pm

Congratulations, Lynne!

Categories
Government Montgomery County

What’s wrong with higher taxes?

Adam Pagnucco at The Seventh State recently wrote about Montgomery County’s spending during the pandemic, arguing that the county needs to balance the budget. His alternative was to threaten a tax hike. It seems unlikely the federal government will send more funds to state and local governments under another stimulus program. The situation is a lot more nuanced than that, and direr if the county cuts or stops spending to help residents during a pandemic in which the federal government has been unable and unwilling to offer relief.

Tax rates

First, let’s get taxes out of the way. Montgomery County has one of the lowest real, personal, and utility tax rates in the entire state. Only a handful of counties have lower tax rates than Montgomery County. We happen to live in one of the wealthiest counties in the entire country, with five billionaires that made the Forbes’ 400 richest American’s list in 2019. Five. Billionaires. Let’s put billions into perspective though. It’s a hard number to grasp because it’s so much larger than anything most Americans will have access to. 10,000 seconds is about one-tenth of an entire day. 100,000 seconds is a little over one day. 1,000,000 is about 11 days. 1,000,000,000 seconds is…a little over 31 years.

Let’s also consider that Montgomery County has the most households in Maryland and the highest median household income per capita in Maryland, according to the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2010-2014 American Community Survey.

So Montgomery County has the most households and is one of the wealthiest counties in the entire country (and coincidentally also in Maryland) but also has one of the lowest tax rates in the state.

Residents in crisis

There are around 130,000 rental units in Montgomery County and 15% of them haven’t been able to pay full rent during the pandemic. The Department of Housing and Community Affairs estimates that landlords are losing around $35 million a month in rent. Now, I’m not a huge fan of landlords, but this sounds pretty bad. In fact, a looming eviction crisis would absolutely devastate the economy in Montgomery County. We would lose 22,000 residents and any taxes that they pay. The only good thing that would come of it would be lower rents for those that could afford to stay (maybe). We can also assume that if these folks can’t pay rent, they can’t pay utilities.

In addition to housing, many residents are struggling to buy necessities, including food. We’ve all seen pictures of endless lines of cars while they wait for grocery distribution at one of the distribution points in the county.

Students enrolled at MCPS and their families are having a hard time accessing school-provided lunches. Parents have to go back to work because no one can afford extended shutdowns when the federal government can’t function. Students have to spend time managing the household while their parents are working.

Taxes aren’t the bogeyman

Taxes pay for services that residents use daily. Utilities, roads, first responder services, police, traffic lights, public transportation, schools, libraries, etc. They also are used to pay for emergency services that residents have needed during the pandemic. Without these services, the county would ultimately be in a much worse situation. Imagine having one of the lowest tax rates in the state but not the tax base to maintain it. We are already in a precarious situation, banking on continual population growth to maintain the tax revenue needed to fund county services. What happens if mass evictions take place once the eviction moratorium ends? If residents can’t pay rent, they certainly won’t be able to pay any back rent once the pandemic ends. Where are they going to go? Montgomery County is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire DMV. They won’t stay here. Montgomery County doesn’t have enough housing, let alone affordable housing.

Fewer taxes means more potholes, fewer first responders, fewer new books at libraries, more classrooms being overcrowded, aging infrastructure that can’t be replaced, fewer health and mental health services, slower public transportation. When people talk about “balancing budgets” and threaten tax hikes, they never consider the impact it will have on everyday services for everyday people. During non-pandemic times, we never had enough money or will to fund services that middle and low-income residents needed to stay afloat. Now that we have a pandemic and a looming financial and housing crisis, we need more government spending, not less. This is precisely the time for a tax hike. Don’t be fooled by people who claim austerity is the way to go. We don’t need a balanced budget, we need to help our residents survive a pandemic.

If you feel that this helped you in any way, consider buying MoCo Local a coffee or beer. You can do so through Venmo (@Vito-Anastasia).

Categories
Elections Government Montgomery County

Sarbanes, Trone, Raskin win re-election to the House of Representatives

While votes are still being counted in Montgomery County and the rest of Maryland, I feel confident in saying that Representatives John Sarbanes, David Trone, and Jamie Raskin have been re-elected to the United States House of Representatives.

District 3

NamePartyTotalPercent
Charles AnthonyRep86,31632.1%
John SarbanesDem182,46067.8%
Other Write-ins427.2%
Vote counts as of 11/4 at 08:20 PM

District 6

NamePartyTotalPercent
Neil C. ParrottRep111,29743%
David J. TroneDem142,84555.2%
George GluckGre4,2361.6%
Other Write-ins259.1%
Vote counts as of 11/4 at 08:20 PM

District 8

NamePartyTotalPercent
Gregory Thomas CollRep97,02235.4%
Jamie RaskinDem176,89564.5%
Other Write-ins455.2%
Vote counts as of 11/4 at 08:20 PM
Categories
Education Montgomery County

Educational disparities in Black, Latino, and low-income students continue to widen during COVID-19 pandemic

According to a study conducted by the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland, Montgomery County students who are Black, Latino, or low-income are continuing to fall behind during the pandemic. 52 individuals were interviewed for the study. They include students, parents, teachers, and staff within the Montgomery County Public School system.

These students, without adequate support, are more likely to disengage from school and to fall further behind their peers academically. This would widen the educational disparities that were already evident in Montgomery County prior to the pandemic, but which are worsening during this period of online learning. Underserved students will continue to face trauma, housing and food insecurities, and additional stressors in their home lives even after schools return to in-person instruction.

SECURING EDUCATIONAL EQUITY: Learning from the Lived Experiences of Black, Latino, and Low-Income Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Researchers found that these underserved students needed more adult support, more communication, and more resources such as more reliable internet, better meal distribution, and mental health support that is culturally competent.

Read the study and its findings.