MD task force develops protocols for resumption of racing

The Maryland Racing Commission April 23 was given an update on the work of a task force charged with developing protocols and procedures necessary for a return of live racing, which was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Many of them have been in place for weeks at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, which remain open for training. Before the state-ordered shutdown of live racing, Laurel successfully offered three days of racing with only essential personnel permitted on the grounds.

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Advisory to Maryland horsemen on aftercare

CANTER is a listing service run by volunteers that advertises retiring horses for owners and trainers. In light of recent issues we have encountered, Maryland horsemen are encouraged to first contact the Beyond The Wire aftercare program when they choose to retire a racehorse.
The CANTER listing service is not accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and because of that horsemen who use the service are solely responsible for screening the buyers and ensuring that the horses go to safe and secure homes with people who can properly care for them. Also beware that unlike TAA-accredited facilities, CANTER offers no safety net for horses should the rehoming situation not work out. This fact makes it even more imperative that the trainer be extremely honest and disclose all useful information, which is always in the best interest of the horse.
Beyond The Wire’s partner farms are TAA-accredited and take their horses back should an adoption not work out. Please contact Beyond The Wire administrator Jessica Hammond at 301-776-0404 if you need to retire a horse.
“Our partner facilities have a lot of space despite the circumstances (related to COVID-19),” Hammond said. “We’re still moving horses during this time.”

Maryland racing community mourns passing of Martin Mora

The Maryland racing community is mourning the loss of Martin Mora, a Maryland Jockey Club security guard and former backstretch worker who died the morning of April 18 at his home in Laurel. He was 56.

Mora was well-recognized by many at the MJC racetracks because of his presence in the winner's circle on live racing days. Part of his security job was monitoring activities and assisting longtime track photographer Jim McCue at the finish line. And if there was precipitation, he held the umbrella over McCue and his camera.

"He was more than just a security guard—he was a great friend and he had a good sense of humor," McCue said. "I relied on him. He took care of me when it rained. One year just before the Preakness he had emergency surgery on his leg, and I remember asking (former MJC President Tom Chuckas) if Martin could come back and handle the winner's circle. He told me, 'As long as he gets clearance from a doctor.' Martin really wanted to come back. He was with me for eight to 10 years."

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MD to launch online one-stop unemployment insurance application

The Maryland Department of Labor on April 24 will launch a one-stop unemployment insurance application that will implement the two remaining programs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Those who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, have insufficient work history, or who have exhausted their benefits since July 1, 2019, and are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program will now be able to submit their applications online and receive their benefits retroactive to their earliest date of eligibility.

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MTHA schedules community webinar to discuss ongoing racing shutdown

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association will host a racing community webinar and question-and-answer session Thursday, April 16, to discuss the ongoing shutdown of live racing in the state and related issues due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The webinar, which will begin at 2 p.m., will allow for an open forum for discussion of issues brought about by the shutdown; health and safety protocols in the stable areas; and to provide as much clarity as possible on the status of live racing in the state. Representatives of the MTHA, Maryland Jockey Club and The Stronach Group are expected to be avaible.

Click here to register for the webinar.

The MTHA and Maryland Horsemen's Assistance Fund also announced that two small businesses with close ties to Maryland horse racing have been retained to produce reusable masks for backstretch workers at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course.

Cathy Morse, who owns Stitches by Chloe, an Easton company that produces owner colors, saddlecloths, paddock blankets and other related items; and Laura Bravo, a longtime backstretch worker and seamstress, have begun the process of making the masks, which are in short supply in many locations.

The MTHA expects production of about 750 masks to be completed by the weekend of April 18-19 with arrival the following week. Distribution on the backstretch will be organized by the MTHA and MJC security personnel.


Several MD counties offering relief programs for small businesses

Several Maryland counties are offering residents access to loan or grants programs for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown.

The Prince George's County COVID19 Business Relief Fund, which totals $15 million, can be used to support cash operating expenses including payroll, suppliers, rent, fixed debt payments and other business-critical cash operating costs. The loans, not to exceed $100,000, carry a fixed interest rate of 3.75% with no principal or interest payments for 12 months.

The loans are for county-based small businesses with a principal business office or location physically located in Prince George's County. Businesses must meet the U.S. Small Business Administration definition of a small business and must be a for-profit entity.

There is no application fee, and the loan application will be available from April 13-May 15.

Prince George's County also offers grants to provide working capital for county-based small businesses whose operations have been interrupted by COVID-19. The $2.5 million program offers up to $10,000 for business with more than 10 employees and up to $5,000 for business with fewer than 10 employees.

The county also has a cash card program for hourly workers' immediate needs such as utilities, gas, and food. Employ PG, in partnership with the Greater Washington Community Foundation, has launched the Prince George's County COVID-19 Hourly Employee Relief Fund under which county residents who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for a $200 EPG Visa Cash Card.

Applications are open at Priority will be given to Prince George's County residents who were earning $19 or less per hour prior to their layoff.

More information on the Prince George's County programs is available here.

Carroll County has established the $500,000 Carroll County Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to provide working capital for county small businesses with disrupted operations due to COVID-19. The program offers $1,250 grants to businesses established prior to March 5, 2020, that have between two and 25 employees.

Eligible uses for the grant funds include working capital to support payroll, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expense that occur in the ordinary course of business operations.

Applications opened April 7 and are available here.

The Montgomery County Council has approved $20 million in emergency funds for grants to small businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. County officials said they are currently developing an application process and will post the application on its website when it becomes available. The county website can be accessed here.

The Cecil County COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Micro Grant Program is for businesses hit hardest by virus disruption.

The $200,000 program provides grants up to $10,000 to businesses that have realized a "significant hardship." It is open to businesses that employed 25 or less full-time persons prior to March 15, 2020; are in good standing with the state of Maryland and Cecil County; and demonstrate an adverse economic impact as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and associated state of emergency in the state. Grants may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

The county also offers Cecil Catalyst COVID-19 Loan Program that offers amounts of $5,000 to $75,000, but officials said requests ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 are encouraged at this time. The loans may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent and mortgage payments, materials, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business.

The interest rate is fixed at 3% for the term of repayment with interest-only payments during year one. Collateral guarantee loans of $15,000 or less will be unsecured, while loans greater than $15,000 may be unsecured or secured at the discretion of a loan review committee.

More information on the Cecil County programs is available here.

Applicants for any programs are urged to consult with tax advisers to determine eligibilty.

On the state level in Maryland, the Department of Commerce announced it is no longer accepting new applications for its COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant and Loan programs. The department said all applications that have been submitted are currently being reviewed in the order received.

The MTHA will continue to provide updates on the state programs as well as any other counties that may offer COVID-19 loan or grant assistance.

The Maryland Business Express, operated by the state, also updates programs and provides other information related to COVID-19.

Purse Release