Worcester’s Economic Future Hinges On Broadband Network
Limitations in Worcester County’s broadband infrastructure were readily evident as individuals, educators, students, health care providers, businesses and remote workers confronted and struggled with the realities of pandemic work-at-home orders, remote learning, virtual meetings and medical consultations and just staying in touch with family and friends.
Our experiences during the past year have compressed and sharply brought into focus what we have learned about the importance of having in place broadband accessibility for all Worcester County residents and the consequences of not having it.
There are great swaths of our county, particularly the rural areas, where broadband accessibility hardly exists or is not available at all. Our residents, whether they live in Bishopville or outside Pocomoke, whether they live on a farm in Stockton or along the Pocomoke River, must have access to the internet like those living in the more concentrated population areas of our county.
Broadband connectivity is not a luxury nor should it be viewed as such. There are multiple internet carriers doing business within our county. But their economic viability models focus on population density. They are businesses focused on maximizing their bottom lines. The reality is that much of our county is not densely populated and as such these areas are less attractive to providers who cannot justify the return on infrastructure investment.
We are in the third decade of the 21st century. Access to broadband is a necessity and must be made available to every home and business within our county. For this reason, this is a narrowly defined circumstance when government has a responsibility to bridge the chasm created when business is unable to fulfill the needs of our residents, homeowners and business owners.
No different than our road system, water and sewer systems and the electrical grid, broadband is an infrastructure capital asset that must be in place to meet the needs of Worcester County residents now and in the future.
Universal access to broadband will ignite and sustain economic development and opportunity within our county not just today but for many tomorrows to come. When all homes and businesses have access to reliable internet, Worcester County will be attractive to the individuals and businesses who will continue to work remotely, even after COVID subsides. By all accounts, the pandemic has spurred a lasting demographic shift away from metropolitan areas in favor of more desirable locales. Remote work decouples the link between where a person works and where a person lives. Remote working allows individuals and families to choose where they want to live based on their needs and desires. Why shouldn’t Worcester be a beneficiary of this reality.
Broadband accessibility will energize our communities and local businesses that for generations has been sustained by agriculture and tourism. Investment in countywide broadband infrastructure will improve the quality of life of our residents as well as the learning experience our of students. It will lure workers whose jobs allow them to work remotely. Worcester County will benefit greatly when we, as a county, invest in needed broadband infrastructure. Also, the positive financial impact on business will have no bounds.
The many natural assets that make Worcester County a desirable place to live, work and play are complemented by an exceptional school system, a proliferating health care system and a populace imbued with an indominable entrepreneurial, we-can-do-anything-we-set-our-minds-to spirit.
Building the necessary broadband infrastructure so that every home and business in Worcester County can have access is a challenge worthy of our pursuits as a community and a county government.
(The writer is a Worcester County Commissioner.)
PPP Is Strengthening America’s Economy
The Paycheck Protection Program numbers show that this is not only the largest, but the most effective American relief program ever signed into law. As small businesses continue to struggle with dwindling demand, workforce shortages, and struggling supply lines, the U.S. Small Business Administration-administered PPP is giving business owners and their employees a much-needed cash infusion to overcome these difficult times.
In the latest Paycheck Protection Program Report, with approvals as of March 7, 2021, we see the SBA guaranteed more than 7.55-plus million PPP loans, totaling more than $687.3 billion since 2020. In the newest round of funding, which began Jan. 11, 2021, the SBA guaranteed over 2.4 million PPP loans for more than $156.2 billion. This represents an increase of more than 200,000 guarantees over the last week, with an almost $9 billion increase in net dollars approved during the same time frame.
Daily, SBA staff field thousands of phone calls and emails from applicants seeking information regarding the status of their PPP loan. I’d like to remind these borrowers that the PPP legislation gives SBA-approved lenders Delegated Authority to act as the SBA’s agent, meaning the lenders determine which applications to process and when to submit them. Therefore, any questions or concerns regarding individual PPP loan applications should be directed to the lender. Similarly, for those unsure about their PPP loan status, or if a PPP loan application is flagged due to data anomalies, the lender will have more information. Borrowers whose application is already submitted to SBA by their lender can create an account in the SBA Capital Access Financial System to monitor their loan status.
PPP isn’t the only way the SBA is helping the small business economy. Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the upcoming Small Venue Operators Grant, Express Bridge Loan, and Debt Relief programs are all options impacted small business owners should consider depending on their needs and qualifications. Additionally, each of our 68 District Offices and hundreds of Resource Partners around the country provide guidance and assistance, including counseling, mentoring, and training for entrepreneurs. Use SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the SBA District Office or Resource Partner service location nearest you.
The SBA has stood side by side with small businesses for nearly 70 years. Whether you need capital, advice or access to new markets, we’re here for you. Visit www.sba.gov to start your journey of success.
(The writer is the acting Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator for the Small Business Administration.)
Salute To Rec Department
Thank you to Ocean City Recreation & Parks for providing a wonderful basketball season for the youth in our community. Anna, Kim and the staff did an amazing job keeping the season going when public pressure could’ve easily cut it short. They took every precaution to keep the kids safe and parents comfortable to keep bringing back their kids.
Like many things, it was a very different and shortened season. However, it provided a lot of joy and normalcy, at a time, when the athletes were still Zoom schooling.
Additional thanks to the referees, scorers and, of course, the parents. Without your support, we wouldn’t have had enough players to compete.
The Ocean City Recreation & Parks has gone above and beyond to maintain activities for the community and we are lucky to have such a wonderful and dedicated staff.