On Monday, March 30th, Governor Larry Hogan signed a new executive order instituting a “Stay at Home” directive.
During his press conference, he stated, "No Marylander shall be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or an essential reason such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention or for other necessary purposes...essential businesses are directed to scale down operations to reduce the required in-person staff in order to limit in-person interactions and institute telework.”
This new executive order went into effect at 8pm Monday, March 30th. The Governor further stated: “Today’s order states that any person who knowingly or willfully violates the order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is subject to imprisonment not to exceed one year or a fine of $5,000 or both.”
We understand that these are difficult, stressful, and confusing times. The Governor has issued two orders recently that directly affect horse businesses and horse people. The first, issued on 3/23, was directed at businesses, and mandated the closure of non-essential businesses. The second, issued 3/30, was directed at individual citizens and mandated that they stay at home except for essential reasons.
Following the issuance of these orders, there was a lot of discussion about what they mean for horse businesses and horse people. The Horse Council has been in constant communication with the MD Department of Agriculture and its MD Horse Industry Board, to try to interpret what these orders mean. The directions we received so far from MDA in these discussions (and - keep in mind that these are subject to change as the pandemic develops) can be summarized as follows: 1) self-care boarding activities are permitted; 2) in general, when horses are in full-care boarding situations, horse owners should not travel to visit, groom, or ride their horses absent a legitimate reason that their horse’s health or safety cannot be secured by the staff at the boarding facility. Owners of boarding facilities have the discretion to decide that, under the current circumstances, additional help is needed to provide basic care for horses, and they can designate individuals to add as temporary “staff.” They can provide those individuals (as well as their regular staff) with letters certifying their right to travel to those jobs.
For your convenience, we have customized documents originally released by the Maryland Farm Bureau for the Maryland horse industry. Please use the following links to retrieve templates for Essential Farm Workers and Essential Farm Contracters.
Barn owners should continue to observe all CDC and WHO guidelines for bio-security, as well as continuing to observe the “social distancing” requirements of the Governor’s 3/23 order (no more than 10 people in a gathering and 6’ separation). Here is a useful legal discussion for barn owners to consider when thinking about their operations: Should I Lock Down my Facility, We recommend that horse farm and business owners check with their lawyers and insurance agents about potential liability for being a source of contagion to or from persons on their property, and also for what coverage they might have for business interruption/loss of income.
Veterinarians and farriers provide essential services, as stated in our Maryland Minimum Standards of Care, and must be allowed to continue to care for horses for both routine and emergency appointments. Banning this type of essential care from your property could be in violation of the Maryland Minimum Standards of Care (routinely consulted by courts) which could be considered abuse or neglect.
We at the Horse Council have been struggling with what these orders have meant for us, personally, and our own horses. We have been buoyed by the remarks of MD Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips, so we share them with you:
“When this crisis is over ― and one day it will be over ― we will look back at this time in our lives as a particularly extraordinary moment. When we look back, we have to be able to say that we did everything we could to save lives,” Phillips said. “We stayed home, we missed school, we missed our friends, all of our normal routines, so we could fight this virus and save lives. We will say we gave up so much for a while in order to save our loved ones, our friends, neighbors and countless others that we will never know.”
In order to provide our Maryland horse community with as much information as possible, we are working on a series of webinars and/or virtual town halls. Please stay tuned as we anticipate announcing the first one in the next week.
With that said, we have compiled additional financial resources for you as many are experiencing significant financial hardships.
First, The Equiery and the Maryland Horse Council want to do what we can to help our community weather these tough times, so we are offering the opportunity to win 1 of 4 free quarter page ads in May issue of The Equiery, with an eblast & social media posts, that you can use to promote and sustain your business. (An $880 value).
To win one of these 4 opportunities, make sure that you or your business page likes & follows The Equiery Facebook page and tell us in the comments how you would use this marketing campaign to promote your business. The winner(s) will be announced at 3 p.m. on Monday, April 6!
Please continue to follow our Equiery/MHC updates as we announce additional support for the horse community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Business Resources Updated March 31st
For a comprehensive list of federal and MD state Corona virus economic resources, see https://govstatus.egov.com/md-coronavirus-business:
Maryland Department of Commerce: The Department has a number of existing financing programs, like Advantage Maryland, which provides conditional loans for new businesses or business expansions; the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority and Fund (MIDFA), which provides loan guarantees; the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA), which provides financial assistance to economically disadvantaged businesses; and the Non-Profit Interest-Free Micro-Bridge Loan Program, which provides loans to nonprofits to support ongoing operating costs while waiting on a future government grant or contract. A total of about $40 million is available through these existing programs.
Governor Hogan’s 3/30 Press Conference & New Funding Announcements: Governor Hogan announced the expansion of a $175 million economic relief package created last week.
Since last week, the state has received more than 1,500 applications to a $7 million COVID-19 Layoff Aversion fund. Hogan added $2 million to the fund on Monday.
So far, the state has paid $8.8 million to more than 400 small businesses to avert 8,000 layoffs, Hogan said.
The state has also received more than 5,300 applications for a $50 million business relief fund, and more than 11,000 applications for new grant funding.
Businesses seeking assistance can learn about the programs at businessexpress.maryland.gov.
Maryland Credit Unions: MD credit unions are offering some flexibility to their members.
A recent membership survey conducted by the MD|DC Credit Union Association shows credit unions are offering immediate relief to consumers struggling to pay bills through loan modifications, fee waivers and other assistance programs:
- 95% are offering loan modifications such as skip-a-payment, low or no-interest loans, or increased line of credit.
• 53% are offering new emergency loan products with deferred payments and/or reduced or no interest.
• 60% are waiving fees or penalties for overdraft, loan applications, ATM, or early withdrawal from CDs.
American Horse Council: Here is an analysis by the American Horse Council of how some of the Federal relief programs apply to horse operations. These are federal provisions only. Maryland has its own programs as do some counties within the state.
For example, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Loans are facilitated through approved local lenders, including Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit. Check the American Horse Council link above for more info.
Montgomery County Relief Package: Bill 16-20 creates an emergency grant program and provides $20 million in funding for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic. The Council also approved an additional $6 million in funding with $5 million going for direct financial assistance to Montgomery County residents and $1 million allocated to support safety net services through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Read the full press release here.
The Council staff report and the full text of Bill 16-20, the Covid-19 Economic Relief Act, can be found here.
Information on the supplemental appropriations can be found here.
Prince George’s County will offer up to $15 million in grants and loans to businesses impacted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Companies may apply for loans of up to $100,000 and grants of up to $10,000. More information can be found here: https://www.pgcedc.com/covid-business-fund-2020
Read the Horse Council’s initial post, dated March 19, 20202, on relief programs and business assistance, “Business Resources for the Horse Community..”