January 4, 2018
Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412
Christie P. Lassen, Director of Communications and Partnerships, Howard County Library System, 410-313-7786
Anna Hunter, Superintendent of Public Information & Marketing, Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks, 410-313-4686
Howard County Library System, Department of Recreation & Parks, and Department of Community Resources and Services also offering assistance during shutdown
ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is committed to assisting federal workers and contractors impacted by the current government shutdown by requesting all county departments and agencies to aid where available. In response to the County Executive’s request, the county’s Department of Finance (DOF) is suspending residential water service disconnections until the federal government shutdown is over.
Additionally, the Howard County Library System (HCLS) announced a suspension of library fines and fees during the shutdown and the county Department of Recreation & Parks (HCRP) is offering alternative payment schedules for impacted federal workers and contractors. Eleven percent of Howard County’s employed residents and their families are directly impacted by the current government shutdown that has lasted for nearly two weeks.
“As this latest federal government shutdown heads into its third week, I have decided to suspend water service disconnections in Howard County until this shutdown is over,” said Ball. “Helping out our residents during difficult times is a principle of the Howard County government. Our government took similar measures during the last extended government shutdown and I wanted to make sure we continue helping our residents in as many ways as possible during this shutdown.”
Howard County has nearly 72,000 residential water and sewer customers. The county bills customers for water and sewer service four times a year, with 30 days to pay. Shut-offs occur after two additional notices have been sent. There are between 10 to 60 disconnections a month, which only take place on residential accounts with more than $250 past due. The average county water and sewer bill is about $150.
“The Department of Finance does not foresee a significant fiscal impact resulting from a temporary suspension of this process, during the federal government shutdown,” said Janet Irvin, Howard County Director of Finance.
The HCLS announced that, effective January 4, no cardholder will be blocked due to fines/fees owed, and fines/fees will not accrue from January 4 through the end of the shutdown.
"Recognizing the difficulties faced by those affected by the federal government shutdown, Howard County Library System's Board of Trustees and I have joined with County Executive Ball to help minimize the financial impact on our community's residents by temporarily suspending fines and fees through the shutdown,” said Tonya Kennon, President and CEO of HCLS.
The HCRP has agreed to allow impacted federal workers and contractors alternative payment schedules for their fees for recreational classes and access to facilities. Impacted federal workers and contractors who need an alternative payment schedule due to the shutdown should call the department at 410-313-7275.
“We are happy to be able to help our residents get through the shutdown by deferring payments and fees,” said John Byrd, Director, HCRP.
Jackie Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) added, “This department also stands ready to assist our county residents facing challenges during this difficult time. Our staff is available to help those impacted by connecting them to needed resources to close the gaps created by the shutdown.”
For federal workers or contractors finding themselves in need of support with health or human services to ensure stability during this time, they can call DCRS’s main line at 410-313-6400 or the Maryland Access Point at 410-313-1234. A complete list of resources and services can be found at: www.howardcountymd.gov/communityresources.
Visit Howard County also will feature a list of free, or almost free, activities throughout Howard County, which will be updated in real time online at www.visithowardcounty.com/things-to-do/free-or-almost-free/.
Amanda Hof, Executive Director for Visit Howard County, shared that "Howard County is known for its outstanding quality of life which includes plenty of budget-friendly attractions and activities. Those impacted by the federal shutdown will find Howard County a fun and convenient place to spend some of their time.”
Earlier this week, County Executive Calvin Ball released a statement as well as a letter to President Donald Trump, Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and House Leader Nancy Pelosi encouraging an immediate end to the shutdown and supporting the engagement and updates from the Howard County Congressional delegation during this difficult time for federal employees and contractors. The statement and a copy of that letter can be viewed here: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/News/ArticleID/1344/News123118b.