Public Information Act Timelines During COVID-19 Crisis

The Public Information Act Ombudsman has released general guidance for government record custodians regarding Public Information Act (PIA) timelines during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance stresses the importance of communication with record requestors and good faith attempts to provide record access.    From the Ombudsman: Q. Does the Public Access Ombudsman have any guidance for State and local governmental custodians about dealing with PIA requests and PIA deadlines in the current COVID-19 crisis? A. Although…

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EPA Relaxing Enforcement of Environmental Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will temporarily rollback enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. For weeks several industries including oil and gas have asked the federal government to relax regulations. The industries argue that they are experiencing worker shortages, and that compliance with what they deem non-essential regulations is inhibiting their ability to distribute fuel. They specifically ask for leniency toward testing and reporting requirements. In response the EPA…

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USM Regents Vote to Support Refunds for Student Fees

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents has voted to allow public colleges in Maryland to refund certain student fees. The move comes after it was announced that students will finish the remainder of the Spring semester remotely. The COVID-19 outbreak initially led public colleges to extend spring breaks, but eventually forced campuses to close for the remainder of the semester and force classes to shift to an online only format. Today the Board…

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Chesapeake Bay Program Releases Latest Bay Barometer

The Chesapeake Bay Program has released its 2018-2019 Bay Barometer that provides an overview of the Chesapeake Bay's health and the status of restoration efforts. The Bay Barometer includes updates on crab and oyster populations, underwater grasses, invasive species, and pollution reduction strategies. From a statement on the publication: The data in Bay Barometer reflect the Chesapeake Bay’s health over the course of many years and, in some cases, decades. The publication offers a snapshot…

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Maryland Receives “A” in Social Distancing

A newly created Social Distancing Scoreboard gives Maryland an overall "A" rating, with Montgomery County topping the state leaderboard. New nationwide polling suggests that the United States is taking social distancing more seriously, but officials are still urging all residents to stay in their homes as much as possible. Unacast has created a new way they believe can measure how well residents are practicing social distancing. Scores are generated through an analysis of mobile phone…

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USDA Supports Rural Communities During COVID-19 Outbreak

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is stepping in to help rural communities suffering from financial hardships due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus. Actions include a moratorium on evictions for residents that have received a home loan through USDA, waving many different program requirements, and extending certain deadlines. From the press release: USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19…

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Anne Arundel Library to Allow Digital Access to Residents with Unpaid Fines

Anne Arundel County Public Library is allowing residents with unpaid fines access to digital content. As COVID-19 causes temporary school closures, isolation, and teleworking, online services offered by libraries are increasingly necessary and popular. As previously reported on Conduit Street, libraries are stepping in to provide online learning and resource needs for their communities. From coverage in the Capital Gazette: As Anne Arundel County Public Library invests in digital resources to help users during the…

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Increased Trail Traffic at Local Parks

As businesses temporarily close and teleworking increases, many residents are naturally spending less time outside their homes. In an effort to redress their daily schedules, many are visiting local parks to utilize trails and public outdoor areas. Local agencies are encouraging park visitors to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes maintaining safe distances from other visitors, refraining from participating in team sports, avoiding touching surfaces like playground equipment, and staying…

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Hogan Dedicates $175 million for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

Governor Larry Hogan announced Monday that his administration is putting $175 million toward small businesses and nonprofits that face economic hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak. From the press release: The Maryland Department of Commerce will offer up to $125 million in loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits through the Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. A $75 million loan fund and a $50 million grant fund, with $1 million in grants…

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Coronavirus Changes Public Transportation Outlook

Temporary business closures, social distancing, quarantine practices, and teleworking are all leading to a decrease in demand for public transportation. The D.C. Metro is estimated to run a deficit of $50 million per month as ridership has declined significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and they have put more money into enhanced facility cleaning and basic personal protection equipment for their employees. Metro has responded to the decrease in demand by altering their…

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