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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.

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Opinion

OPINION: Maryland’s General Assembly Needs to Act Now to Avoid Economic Nightmare

Facts are stubborn things, once quipped the bard Shakespeare. And so they are. There are two important, stubborn facts facing Marylanders today. First is that a global pandemic has reached our shores, and we are now in a state of emergency, both in Maryland and nationwide. The second is that, whether we like it or not, our citizen-legislature has less than a month to pass law before their work comes to an end for a year. 

The first fact is avoidable, but with our federal government response in disarray, likely all the same. The second one is inevitable; we do not as a state have a full-time legislature, and so must reconcile to the fact that our laws are passed and reviewed for only a short window every winter by part-time elected officials with skeletal staffs. But a third fact has yet to indeed become one: an impending economic crisis unlike anything we have seen in recent times.

Another fact: Maryland’s economy is about see a period of slow or reversed growth in the near-term, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Large retailers have already begun curtailing hours of service, and some have announced eventual plans to shut down operations completely. Small restaurants, cafes, and other service-oriented businesses will soon need to suspend operations, or involuntarily weigh lay staff to deal with decreased revenue. In turn, local business owners and their employees will have significantly less cash in their pocket, if any at all. 

What this means in a society governed by debt and where debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry, is that everyday Marylanders will face eviction, the cutoff of utilities, foreclosure, car repossession, and derogatory credit reports very, very soon for no fault of their own. The only thing standing in the way of such economic ruin is the General Assembly doing its actual job (less selfies and self-promotional social media posts, please), and passing emergency legislation to enact an automatic stay against debt collection into law. Such a stay has historic precedent in American legal tradition: it is standard with every bankruptcy petition filed with a court. But bankruptcy isn’t really an effective way to deal with the current crisis (and it ruins a person’s financial life for at least seven years). The only real solution available is for the state legislature to admit facts are indeed stubborn things, and get to work right now on emergency legislation to protect Marylanders from predatory collection schemes by creditors whose bottom line is not safeguarding our economy, but maximizing returns for their unscrupulous investors (who else buys the stock of a debt collector?). This isn’t rocket science: the Maryland General Assembly needs to protect our citizens from an economic nightmare. 

Hamza Khan is a local activist based in Potomac, Maryland.

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