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Baltimore City has cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It pained me to cancel a tradition that has been a staple for decades in Baltimore City,” Mayor Jack Young said at a press conference Thursday. 

But Young said that the police will be on the lookout for illegal fireworks. City officials have been hearing complaints about illegal fireworks at night for weeks. 

Mary Rose Madden / WYPR

Next to a dilapidated hundred year old house in Northeast Baltimore, there’s an old rusted tractor that’s twisted in vines, its metal warped. It looks more like a sculpture than a piece of farm equipment. And it sits on ten acres of land with trails and ponds behind it.

It caught the eye of Atiya Wells three years ago while she was exploring in her neighborhood and it kicked off her vision for BLISS Meadows – a community farm, just off busy Moravia Avenue. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR

  

The Maryland Board of Public Works cut $413 million from the state budget during its meeting Wednesday. Gov. Larry Hogan — one of the board’s three members — said the cuts are necessary because the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on state revenues. It's part of his plan to cut $1.45 billion from the budget overall. 

WYPR’s Rachel Baye joins Nathan Sterner to discuss what the budget cuts mean.

Wikimedia Commons

Just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program has pronounced the bay’s blue crab stocks stable, not overfished and not in decline.

The annual Blue Crab Advisory Report released Wednesday by the Bay Program found that the Chesapeake’s crab stock remains healthy despite having dropped by nearly 200 million crabs this year.

Chris Moore, a senior scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says the numbers are within a reasonable range. 

Courtesy of MD Dept of Health

During this pandemic, contact tracers have been doing the critical job of tracking down people who might have come in contact with those who tested positive for COVID-19.

While the program has been expanding, there is a debate over how many tracers are needed and whether Maryland has enough.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Maryland’s Board of Public Works plans to vote Wednesday on more than $672 million in budget cuts. The proposed cuts would affect nearly every part of state government, from schools to healthcare to public safety.

 

Gov. Larry Hogan called for the cuts to deal with a massive drop in revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he is putting $30 million in a fund available through the federal CARES act to help prevent evictions. But members of a House of Delegates committee questioned whether that would be enough in a virtual briefing Monday. 

Ten million dollars of the fund will provide rent relief for tenants by paying eligible property management companies. The remaining $20 million will go to all of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions to help prevent evictions.

SETH WENIG/AP

  

The Maryland Department of Health issued a Saturday order requiring Advanced Pain Medicine Institute to cease all collection and processing of COVID-19 tests.

Secretary Robert R. Neall announced the ban after his department received a complaint about COVID-19 testing sites operated in coordination with APMI. An investigation found that AMPI did not have a required certification to perform tests and that some patients never received their test results.

 

As tenants across the state lost their jobs and struggled to pay rent when the COVID-19 pandemic set in in March. Gov. Larry Hogan issued a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

But housing advocates warn that Baltimore City will face a wave of evictions when the moratorium expires on July 25.

Carolina Paul, a paralegal at the Public Justice Center, said at a virtual news conference Thursday that once the moratorium expires, the evictions will start with cases already in the pipeline, but then “the dam will really break.” 

Flickr

Baltimore County teachers have ratified a contract that contains a 1% pay raise, which is far less than what teachers originally expected to get.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

  


  Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is due to report to an Alabama prison on Friday, four months after she was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiracy and tax evasion in the Health Holly scandal.

Pugh was originally scheduled to report for her sentence in mid-April, but the Democrat received a delay as the coronavirus pandemic escalated and prison officials throughout the country scrambled to adjust to the highly contagious virus.

Baltimore County Public Schools

Over the next few weeks, the Baltimore County Public Schools will be putting in place plans for fall classes.

At the same time, school officials are planning for face-to-face classes in August for those students who failed to switch to online learning when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Public health experts have said to expect a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases as soon as the late summer or early fall. When the new surge arrives, Maryland officials may not force businesses to close again.

 

Speaking with a subcommittee of the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee via Zoom on Thursday, Health Secretary Robert Neall said his department is preparing for a new surge in COVID-19 cases. He said this time, there will be a new challenge.

Rachel Baye / WYPR


More than half a million Maryland residents have filed for unemployment insurance since March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the state is still working through a backlog of about 34,000 of those applicants whose claims have not been processed.

 

During a Zoom meeting Wednesday, Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told state lawmakers that the state has so far sent $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits to more than 400,000 residents. But she said Labor Department staff members are still reviewing applications received in May and the first half of June.

Baltimore County Public Schools

Update to the story: 

By a 78% majority, The Baltimore County Teachers Union voted to ratify the contract which takes effect July 1.

Original post: 

Baltimore County teachers this week are voting on a new contract.

Under the proposed deal, teachers would get a raise, but not as much as they had expected.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR


  The Baltimore City Department of Public Works’ top official said Tuesday that stalled trash pickup services will soon improve as 112 employees return to work, after the agency suspended operations at a facility with cases of COVID-19 earlier this month.

“We understand and share residents’ frustrations,” Acting Director Martthew Garbark said during a news conference. “We did the right thing by quarantining workers to protect their families, their coworkers and everyone else.”

Mary Rose Madden / WYPR

It’s been almost two weeks since Baltimore’s Department of Public Works shut down its curbside recycling program and limited trash collection because of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Eastern Sanitation Yard on Bowleys Lane.

In the meantime, some Baltimoreans have been taking trash into their own hands. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan announced on May 20 that the state would do “universal testing” for COVID-19 at juvenile detention facilities. But the vast majority of both the youth residents and the staff at these facilities have yet to be tested, and the state Department of Juvenile Services doesn’t expect to finish the first round of tests until the end of July.

Charm City TV

Mayor Jack Young announced today that Baltimore City will enter Phase 2 of re-opening from coronavirus shutdown at 5 p.m. Friday. Religious facilities could re-open for indoor services at 50 percent of capacity, he said, as well as restaurants, bars, gyms and retail stores.

Childcare facilities and camps are allowed to operate with up to 15 individuals per classroom.

His announcement comes a week after Gov. Larry Hogan announced similar changes.

Seth Sawyers/flickr

 

There will be no in-class summer school in Baltimore County this year.

School officials had been considering having small groups of students in classes this summer, but a spokesman for the county schools said they want to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, so have decided not to do that.

Joe Kane / WYPR

  

Joe Kane grew up in East Baltimore with his cousins, aunts and uncles close by. It was the way his grandmother, Phyllis Waters, wanted it.

He says she loved her family – and her Seventh Day Adventist church.

"When I say ‘all her time’ – I mean all her time was in church," he says. "She’d stay there all day."

Waters loved to sing. Kane says her favorite hymn was “When We All Get to Heaven.”

Courtesy Architect of the Capitol

The HEROES Act, the $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed the House last month, remains stalled in the Senate.

About one third of that money would go to help state and local governments weather the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.

Local officials are trying to make the case to Congress that basic services could be cut if the act doesn’t pass.

Mary Rose Madden / WYPR


House Speaker Adrienne Jones and all 98 Democratic members of the Maryland House of Delegates called on Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday to sign an executive order that would make several policing tactics illegal in the 18 law enforcement agencies under the state’s control. 

MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY/SCREENSHOT VIA WYPR

State legislators grilled top election officials on Tuesday about Maryland’s problem-filled June 2 primary, which included hours-long voting lines, delays for the arrival of Baltimore City mail-in ballots and temporarily deleted preliminary results.

Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone, along with her board colleagues, appeared before the House Ways and Means and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committees to answer lawmakers’ questions and explain the errors.

Wikimedia Commons


Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination is likely to have implications for a lawsuit filed late last week in federal court in Baltimore.

 

The lawsuit accuses Catholic Relief Services, an international humanitarian aid organization headquartered in Baltimore, of discriminating against a gay employee by denying health insurance coverage for the employee’s husband.

Credit AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY


The Baltimore City Council adopted a budget for the next fiscal year that cuts $22.4 million from the police department’s $550 million budget, including nearly $7 million from overtime spending.

 

The cuts come days after protestors gathered outside City Hall demanding that the Baltimore Police Department be defunded altogether. The cuts are less than 5% of the total police department’s 2021 budget, which is 1.2% lower than the department’s budget from the previous year. 

Baltimore County Public Schools

 

It’s been a long road to graduation for Raymond Shaw Finney.

He was born with multiple disabilities. His father died when he was an infant. Raymond slipped into the foster care system. Then eight years later, a family member recognized a picture of Raymond on AdoptUSKids, a website that connects foster children with permanent families. She told Raymond’s aunt, Vanessa Finney, to have a look.

And when she did she immediately recognized her nephew.

Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Police Chief Melissa Hyatt announced a series of changes in police policy Friday spurred by reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Olszewski said the department’s use of force policy will be updated, that all members of the department will receive additional training on what he called “fair and impartial policing,” and that the county will make public complaints against police officers.

Courtesy Brian Frosh

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and the Maryland Access to Justice Commission, an advocacy group, have formed a task force aimed at creating legislation they say would address a “crisis of justice.”

Associated Press/Jeff Chiu, File

Here is how the COVID economic cookie has crumbled for McCormick & Company, the spice people, headquartered in Hunt Valley in Baltimore County.

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