The greatest challenge coming out of the second week of clean-up is connecting business owners to volunteers. As I indicated last week, the original notion was that businesses would have to recruit their own volunteers. I was then told this was incorrect and that the County would be coordinating this in order to track volunteer hours. Yesterday, I was told that this position had been reversed due to liability concerns and it was back to the "wild west" of volunteer recruitment. My wife Nicole went down this weekend to help Rumor Mill and remarked to me that a neighboring business did not have any volunteers. She noted how sad it must be to see a dozen volunteers next-door and not have any of your own to help.
So let's try to fix that. The Ellicott City Partnership has the same liability concerns as the County in this regard, which limits the organization's ability to play match-maker. There are numerous electronic forums (i.e., Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist) that could facilitate this process, but we should consider that many, if not all, of those businesses that could recruit volunteers had Facebook pages to begin with. Those that did not...did not. Please leave your suggestions in the comments (either here or the Facebook page).
Friday was a day of big announcements. The County Executive announced that former County Executive Jim Robey will lead a "flood recovery committee", which will be made up of residents, business-owners, and representatives from local nonprofits and from the faith community. The members have not yet been announced and the specific tasks of this committee, other than "recovery", are not yet known.
The County Executive also entered an Executive Order creating a "Recovery Fund Committee" (referred to as the "EC Strong Fund Committee") that will create a uniform means of applying for relief funds and making recommendations to the United Way and Ellicott City Partnership on how those funds should be distributed. News reports after Friday's press conference suggested the committee would be making distributions. They will not. The County Executive's Order states that the committee will be making recommendations, which will go to the organizations making disbursements. The primary purpose of this is to ensure that grants were not being paid for services already offered by the government. A secondary purpose is to create uniformity in application. I think this committee serves both purposes well and look forward to seeing it progress.
There has also been some confusion over whether there is a collective "EC Strong Fund". There is not. The United Way has an "ECStrong Fund", but the ECP is maintaining a Flood Relief Fund under the "Ellicott City Partnership". We have already received a few checks made out to the "EC Strong Fund", which we can only hope will either be honored or rewritten. If you would like to support the relief effort, please continue to send contributions to the Ellicott City Partnership at www.helpellicottcity.com.
Last week, the Ellicott City Partnership continued to issue short term relief by way of $100 check cards and, starting today, will begin making distributions of the $500 Emergency Relief Grants. We are reviewing applications on a rolling basis and hope to have the second batch reviewed and processed by the end of this week.
The Ellicott City Partnership also offered relief by way of an arrangement with ServPro Ellicott City to help get professional crews into these businesses for clean-up and mold remediation. The ECP will pay 50% of all contracts not covered by insurance and 100% of all deductibles for those who had insurance. As may be expected, this caused some frustration among those who had insurance who believed they were being discounted for "doing the right thing". Speaking for myself, and not for the ECP, I am very sympathetic to that position and know we will do more to make it up to those people. But for now, this fund can only be used for "uninsured losses not otherwise covered by government funds or services". It is the best way to serve the most amount of people and address the most profound needs.
Week 2 seems to be the week of rumors, which is unfortunate. Some have suggested that the Ellicott City Partnership is only assisting merchants and is not helping residents. That is incorrect and belied by two weeks of coordinating supplies and check cards for those affected on the West End. The ECP has accepted Emergency Relief Grant requests from residents and will continue to direct resources to all those affected in Historic Ellicott City.
That's all for today. Have a great Monday helping Ellicott City.