Baltimore County is freezing nonessential hiring and enlisting the Maryland Army National Guard for food assistance in anticipation of budget pressures from the coronavirus pandemic, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Thursday.
The Democrat said he is directing the county Office of Budget and Finance to temporarily freeze hiring for all positions except first responders, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, 911 staff, sheriff’s deputies, correctional officers and public health and human services workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Olszewski said the county is implementing the hiring freeze to avoid furloughs and layoffs, while continuing to provide essential services.
“This is not an easy decision, but it is a fiscally responsible one," Olszewski said.
The hiring freeze announcement comes after Olszewski told residents Tuesday night that the county’s local revenues are expected to drop by “tens of millions of dollars” next year as businesses suspend operations and furlough or lay off workers during the pandemic.
County expenses directly tied to COVID-19 also will amount to “tens of millions” of dollars, Olszewski said. The county’s three budget priorities for 2021 will be schools, public safety and workforce support, he said, stressing the county must focus on the “basics” to ensure residents continue to receive the essential public services required to “weather this storm." Olszewski will announce his budget on April 14.
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As a result of the economic slowdown, 13,000 county residents last week filed unemployment claims, said Will Anderson, director of the county’s Department of Economic and Workforce Development. Anderson said he expects that number to increase.
Olszewski’s decision comes a day after Howard County Executive Calvin Ball implemented an immediate conditional hiring freeze for all positions except sworn public safety positions. Howard County government is also reviewing its General Fund vacant positions. Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack" Young froze nonessential hiring and spending in March.
Maryland’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases exceeds 6,000, and on Wednesday the state’s cumulative death toll from the pandemic reached 138. Public services have been restricted and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has closed nonessential businesses. Hogan also issued a stay-at-home order to stifle the spread of the disease.
The county executive has declared a local state of emergency to expedite procurement related to the pandemic. Olszewski also said the National Guard is going to help the county distribute food.
Beginning Friday, the troops will support weekday meal distribution at all seven Department of Recreation and Parks locations. The take-away meals are available 4 to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on a first-come, first-served basis.
The county this week is purchasing 23,100 frozen, prepacked meals to distribute to food insecure residents at the 30 sites across the county, up from 11 food distribution sites. On Saturday at 11 a.m., meals will be distributed at the following locations:
- Arbutus Community Center, 865 Sulphur Spring Road, Halethorpe, MD 21227
- Bear Creek Elementary School, 1607 Melbourne Road, Dundalk, MD 21222
- Cockeysville PAL Center, 9836 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville, MD 21030
- Colgate Elementary School, 401 51st St., Baltimore, MD 21224
- Dundalk PAL Center, 15 Commerce Place, Dundalk, MD 21222
- Eastern Regional Park, 11723 Eastern Ave., Baltimore MD 21220
- Edgemere Elementary School, 7201 North Point Road, Edgemere, MD 21219
- Edmondson Heights Elementary School, 1600 Langford Road, Baltimore, MD 21207
- Fullerton Elementary School, 4400 Fullerton Ave., Nottingham, MD 21236
- Grange Elementary School, 2000 Church Road, Dundalk, MD 21222
- Halethorpe Elementary School, 4300 Maple Ave., Halethorpe, MD 21227
- Hereford Senior Center, 510 Monkton Road, Monkton MD, 21111
- Hillcrest Elementary School, 1500 Frederick Road, Catonsville, MD 21228
- Hillendale PAL Center 1111 Halstead Road, Baltimore, MD 21234
- Lansdowne Elementary School, 2301 Alma Road, Baltimore, MD 21227
- Mars Estates PAL Center 1498 East Homberg Ave., Baltimore, MD 21221
- Martin Boulevard Elementary School, 210 Riverton Road, Baltimore, MD 21220
- Parkville High School, 8711 Avondale Road, Parkville, MD 21234
- Perry Hall Elementary School, 9021 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236
- Randallstown Elementary School, 9013 Liberty Road, Randallstown, MD 21133
- Reisterstown Senior Center, 12035 Reisterstown Road, Reisterstown, MD 21136
- Rodgers Forge Elementary School, 250 Dumbarton Road, Baltimore, MD 21212
- Scotts Branch PAL Center 3651 Rolling Road, Baltimore, MD 21244
- Shady Spring PAL Center 8876 Goldenwood Road, Baltimore, MD 21237
- Warren Elementary School, 900 Bosley Road, Cockeysville, MD 21030
- West Town Elementary School, 401 Harlem Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228
- Western Tech High School, 100 Kenwood Ave., Catonsville, MD 21228
- Winfield PAL Center, 8304 Carlson Lane, Baltimore, MD 21244
- Woodbridge Elementary School, 1410 Pleasant Valley Drive, Baltimore, MD 21228
- Woodmoor PAL Center, 7111 Croydon Road, Baltimore, MD 21207
Residents who need assistance with food access can call 410-887-2594 or email email@example.com. Seniors, or individuals seeking assistance on behalf of a senior with food access needs, can call 410-887-2594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.