At the onset of the summer, more than 75% of Maryland’s residents over the age of 18 years old had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting seniors vaccinated has been one of the state’s priorities and by mid-June, 90% had received at least one dose.
As of July 1, all emergency mandates and restrictions related to COVID-19 were lifted in the state. Masks are no longer required in any setting except for public transportation. It’s up to each business and workplace to establish a policy for wearing face coverings.
Like other states, Maryland’s retailers and restaurants were hit hard by the pandemic, causing several companies to close their doors for good. Included on that list is Lord & Taylor, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Pier 1 and Papyrus. Other retailers decided to scale back operations and closed some or all of their Maryland locations, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sears and Sur La Table.
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To help get the state back on its feet, Gov. Larry Hogan launched Project Restore, a $25 million economic recovery initiative to help small businesses and commercial developers revitalize vacant retail and commercial space. The program is expected to draw new business to the area and create thousands of jobs through rental subsidies and sales tax rebates.
However, as other states are finding, a key challenge to businesses reopening is finding available help. Despite the loosening of coronavirus restrictions and clamping down on unemployment benefits, the state has been facing a labor crisis for some time. Desperate for workers, many local businesses are turning to signing bonuses to attract new employees. According to the Maryland Retailers Association, for many employers, the employment shortage is causing some businesses to cut hours to the point of closing a day or two per week.
The Maryland Restaurant Association predicts it could take three to five years before the restaurant and food service industry in the state reaches full recovery.
According to Kenneth Holt, secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, to date, the state has awarded more than $1.78 billion in pandemic-related funding to assist nonprofits, businesses, tourist venues, entertainment, homeowners and other Marylanders in need.
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Thanks to these and other efforts, some retailers can return to their growth plans. As part of its $500 million expansion strategy, German grocer Lidl announced it will open 10 new stores throughout Maryland by the end of 2021. Its most recent opening in Columbia is Lidl’s 17th location in the state. Additionally, the company opened a regional headquarters and distribution center in Perryville last April. The new 700,000-sq.-ft. facility will serve as the backbone of Lidl’s regional store network, supplying products to stores in five states. Lidl invested more than $100 million in the project, which created more than 200 new full-time jobs.
This summer, a new At Home store is expected to open in the former J.C. Penney site in Glenarden. The home décor superstore will set up shop in the 96,000-sq.-ft. space and carry more than 50,000 SKUs of private label, unbranded or specially designed home goods. The Woodmore Towne Center location also features Wegmans, Costco, Chipotle and Starbucks.