MACo 2021 County Innovation Award Winners Champion Small Businesses and Workforce Development Recovery

MACo’s County Innovation Award was established to recognize superb and leading-edge county programs that improve overall quality-of-life and service delivery for a county’s residents.

The Honorable Ingrid Turner, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Associate Judge, MACo Past President, and former Prince George’s County Council Member instituted this award during her term as MACo President in 2012. The award is now a collaboration of the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance and MACo, with support from the Local Government Insurance Trust.

The County Innovation Award is issued to an urban county and a rural county each year. All nominees were impressive, addressing issues in their communities and serving the needs of residents in ways that were truly “outside the box.” Contact information is provided below if you would like to learn more about each nominated program.

MACo and the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance are pleased to announce our two award winners and share information on all nominees, as listed below. Award winners will be invited to speak about their programs during the 2021 MACo Winter Conference.


Rural – Business Information Center at the Cecil County Public Library

Cecil County

Our County Library System’s award-winning Business Information Center (BIC) leverages information expertise and access to assist Cecil’s existing and aspiring small business owners, entrepreneurs, and non-profits throughout the life cycle of their enterprise- from creating a business plan to getting financing, hiring staff, and marketing. The Library’s BIC has been a critical community connector during the pandemic. As businesses struggled to stay afloat, our business librarians were there from day one to help them not only gain access to financial support, information, and other economic development partners, but to also shift to new business models.

Nominator: Al Miller, Council Member, District 3, Cecil County (

Urban – COVID-19 Workforce Development Recovery Program

Prince George’s County

Employ Prince George’s launched the COVID-19 Workforce Development Recovery Program in April of 2020 to assist businesses with decreased revenues and residents that had been laid off due to Covid-19. With local Prince George’s County Government funds, municipal grants, foundation/business grants, and state grants, the COVID-19 Workforce Development Recovery Program raised over $1.5 million in FY20 and FY21. With these funds, the COVID-19 Workforce Development Recovery Program distributed $200 and $300 visa cash cards to 5,677 Prince George’s County residents (totaling $709,300 in aid), provided $548,336 in grants to 29 businesses, and helped train and place into employment over 150 residents.

Nominator: Walter Simmons, President & CEO, Employ Prince George’s, Prince George’s County (


Carroll County Bureau of Housing & Community Connections Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Carroll County

Carroll County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) began in May of 2021 to help at-risk residents navigate the county’s eviction prevention process. The program helps tenants remain in their homes while providing funding to landlords as federal and state eviction moratoriums ended. To date, the county provided over $1.9 million to assist more than 220 families with rental arrears payments using federal ERAP funding. From the inception, the program developed innovative partnerships with the District Court and the Sherriff’s Department preventing 38 evictions that otherwise would have been processed.

Nominator: Celene Steckel, Director, Dept. of Citizen Services, Carroll County (

Cecil County COMPASS (Cecil On-demand Mobility Platform and Service Solution) Program

Cecil County

Cecil Transit’s COMPASS Program addresses Cecil County’s growing addiction support needs by removing transportation barriers for the recovery community. Through the expansion of a mobility on-demand service model targeted at substance abuse recovery houses, the program provides greater access to treatment and recovery services and timelier connection to employment options. Participation in the program allows individuals to schedule their own rides through a smart phone application. This transformative project provides curb to curb transportation, maximize ride share opportunities and enable individuals in recovery to access employment, medical, treatment, support, and other social services necessary to remain connected to the community.

Nominator: David Trolio, Director, Department of Community Services, Cecil County (

Charles County Whole of Government Equity Program

Charles County

Charles County is perhaps the most diverse jurisdiction in the state of Maryland, and one of only three major political subdivisions (the other two being Baltimore City and Prince George’s Counties) that are either majority-minority or majority- African American. With increased emphasis at every level of government and a growing public demand signal, equity in the services being provided and in how they are delivered is paramount. The Charles County Whole of Government Equity Program ensures all employees and citizens are included, heard, valued, and afforded the same opportunities.

Nominator: Jesse Bungcayao, Executive Assistant to the County Administrator, Charles County (

Charles County COVID-19 Recovery Task Force

Charles County

The Charles County COVID-19 Recovery Task Force was created to identify the impact of the COVID crisis on local economy, businesses, and nonprofits and to respond with short- and long-term solutions to mitigate losses, retain employers and employees, and minimize damage to the local economy. The Task Force brought together business operators who could speak to the needs of their specific industries and the private sector in general with public sector representatives with regulatory authority and access to resources to address those needs. The group met online weekly to start and was chaired by a retired judge.

Nominator: Marcia Keeth, Deputy Director, Dept. of Economic Development, Charles County (

Emergency Medical Service Staffing

St. Mary’s County

Several of our communities were tremendously effected by COVID. In St. Mary’s County Maryland, COVID reduced the amount of Emergency Medical Services normally provided by our volunteer first responders. As a result, this created a delay in response to critical life saving events. Historically, St. Mary’s County EMS services has predominantly consisted of volunteer EMS services. Responding to this, in September of 2020, our Department of Emergency Services requested funding from the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County to provide paid EMS services to our citizens. The Commissioners granted this request and the Department of Emergency Services proceeded to move forward in developing a career EMS program, successfully providing effective Emergency Medical Services to our community.

Nominator: Stephen Walker, Director, Emergency Services, St. Mary’s County (


The Loop

Baltimore County

Recognizing the need to decrease congestion and provide easy, efficient, and reliable transit to the people of Baltimore County, County Executive John Olszewski instituted Baltimore County’s first local public transit system, the Loop. The Loop connects students, commuters, and visitors throughout Towson’s central business district, with plans to expand the service for all Baltimore County to enjoy. Currently, buses are accessible at any location every 15 to 20 minutes and will be accessible on Saturdays. The fleet consists of 12 circulator shuttle buses, each with a bike rack, air conditioning, space for wheelchairs and strollers, and 25 total seats.

Nominator: Joshua Greenberg, Legislative and Policy Liaison, Baltimore County (

Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) Program

Baltimore County

In October 2020, Baltimore County launched an innovative eviction prevention program in partnership with the United Way of Central Maryland (UWCM): The Strategic Targeted Eviction Prevention (STEP) program. STEP utilized geographic COVID-19 case and economic vulnerability data to focus assistance on households most impacted by the pandemic, including households containing seniors and minor children. STEP offers direct “bundled” payments to large landlords on behalf of tenants to ensure that County residents retain their housing. To date, the program has provided $13M in state and local federal funds to avert eviction for nearly 1800 households in the County.

Nominator: Joshua Greenberg, Legislative and Policy Liaison, Baltimore County (

Harford County Wheel Chair Costume Workshop

Harford County

Dressing up in costumes and spending the evening with friends and neighbors is a popular Halloween tradition. Unfortunately for children who use a wheelchair, dressing up and trick-or-treating in their neighborhood can be a challenge. Traditional costumes often do not fit on a child in a wheelchair and the physical inaccessibility of neighborhoods relegates many children with disabilities to stay home. Recognizing that more than 500 youth with physical disabilities were sometimes inadvertently excluded from community events, particularly Halloween, Harford County Government introduced the region’s first Wheelchair Costume Workshop in October 2019. The second annual workshop returned in October 2021. During the two-day event, hundreds of volunteer’s design and build unique costumes that fit securely on children’s wheelchairs. The event concludes with an inclusive “Trick or Treat” so that ALL children can play with their peers and enjoy Halloween!

Nominator: Amber Shrodes, Director, Community Services, Harford County (

Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton Medal of Honor Playground

Harford County

Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton was an African American Union Army Soldier from the Harford County community of Gravel Hill. He is Harford’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor – America’s highest military decoration – for his actions at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm. A park was named in his honor in 2002, but the County wanted to provide more education in an interactive way. In January 2021, a themed playground based on Sgt. Hilton’s story was installed with equipment to climb, slide, and jump on – while it educates community children about this hometown hero.

Nominator: Cynthia Mumby, Director of Governmental & Community Relations, Harford County (

Harford County NEXT GEN Responder Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Harford County

To recruit and retain lifesaving volunteers, Harford County is offering up to $5,000 per year, for up to four years, to help volunteer fire & EMS providers repay their student loans. Harford County relies entirely on volunteers for its fire service, and has a combination of volunteer and paid EMS providers operating in 12 volunteer fire companies countywide. As it has become more difficult to attract volunteers, County Executive Barry Glassman, a former EMT with the Level Volunteer Fire Company, created this program to strengthen public safety. It is believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland.

Nominator: Cynthia Mumby, Director of Governmental & Community Relations, Harford County (

LEAP4MCG – Leveraging Employment Abilities Program For Montgomery County Goverment

Montgomery County

Montgomery County Government’s LEAP4MCG (Leveraging Employment Abilities Program) is a new, collaborative hiring initiative between the Office of Human Resources (OHR) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The program seeks to address the underrepresentation of persons with disabilities in the workplace by offering a limited number of two-year term benefits-eligible County positions that can only be filled by persons with severe disabilities. LEAP4MCG provides employment opportunities that develop and/or enhance skillsets and experience, with the goal of obtaining employment within the County or community at large post-program participation.

Nominator: Samuel Frushour, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Human Resources, Montgomery County (

Safety Net Program

Montgomery County

In May 2021, OAS initiated the Safety Net Program to provide foster care opportunities for owned pets while their owners are temporarily unable to care for their pet(s) due to illness, homelessness, financial strain, or other emergencies. Owners are reunited with their pets once they are capable of caring for them. This program provides pet owners unable to take care of their pets an opportunity to overcome a serious hardship, while their pets are cared for, at no cost, by a shelter volunteer foster until they are able to take over that responsibility. Prior to this, hardships such as homelessness through evictions and other emergencies resulted in the pet owners relinquishing the beloved pet.

Nominator: Thomas Koenig, Executive Director, Montgomery County (

Montgomery Energy Connection

Montgomery County

Montgomery Energy Connection is a County program created with funds from the Pepco-Exelon merger to provide residents with customized education on the benefits of energy efficiency, availability of programs, and opportunities for assistance. While the program is managed by the Department of Environmental Protection, the network includes over 60 partners including County departments/agencies, municipalities, nonprofits, and businesses. To date, the program has connected with more than 51,000 County residents. This program was created to educate County residents of all ages, income levels, and housing types on how to lower their utility costs and keep money in their pocket.

Nominator: Larissa Johnson, Residential Energy Program Manager II, Department of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County (

The 2021 MACo Winter Conference, “Time to Reboot: Tomorrow’s Tech Today,” will be held on December 8-10, 2021, at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: