CUMBERLAND — More than 42,000 Marylanders — including 848 in Allegany County and 286 in Garrett — filed for unemployment assistance last week as businesses closed and altered hours in response to the coronavirus.
The numbers represent claims filed March 15 through 21. The week before, just 3,852 were filed in Maryland, 62 in Allegany County and 18 in Garrett.
“It’s a very difficult time for all businesses and we are greatly concerned about the economic impacts on the county,” said Nicole Christian, president and CEO of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce.
Christian said the chamber is conducting a business survey to get a sense of the effects on businesses, and fears the situation could get worse depending on the length of the pandemic, which could force some businesses to close permanently.
“We could see our local economy completely obliterated,” she said. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that. This crisis is devastating for businesses, but with the assistance of the federal and state government, we hope they will be able to weather the storm.”
One sector hit particularly hard by the pandemic is hotels.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates 13,640 jobs directly related to the hotel industry and 42,631 jobs tangentially hotel-related could be lost in Maryland.
“What we’re seeing from the state of Maryland is in line with stats we’ve seen from the American Hotel and Lodging Association,” said Amy Rohrer, president of the Maryland Lodging & Tourism Association. “Nearly every hotel I’ve spoken to that is still in operation has had to lay off 80% to 90% of staff. What we’re experiencing is an unprecedented situation.”
Rohrer said that some hotels are staying open as hubs for first responders and that she believed the industry would bounce back.
“The industry will come back, people will want to travel again,” said Rohrer. “We want to help do our part in assisting with stopping the spread of this virus. We are just doing everything we can to assist until the situation subsides and we can get back to normal operations.”
Stu Czapski, Allegany County Chamber of Commerce executive director, was not available for comment Thursday.