BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Now struggling in a pandemic, Claudia Towles has owned Amuse Toys in Fells Point for 19 years.

She’d like to make it to 20.

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There’s help on the way after Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot kicked off the Shop Maryland For the Holidays Campaign.

The comptroller announced it on Facebook Live Monday Morning.

“We have about 170,000 small businesses in the State of Maryland,” he said. “My experts estimate about 30,000 have either closed permanently or will close their doors permanently.”

The annual initiative is starting earlier because of the pandemic.

To save those shops, you have to shop. Now you can get paid to do it. Nine Maryland based credit unions are offering rewards to their members that shop at local businesses from now until 2021.

Those unions include:

  • Five Star of MD Federal Credit Union
  • Market USA Federal Credit Union
  • Atlantic Financial Federal Credit Union • DOLFCU • GPOFCU • Chessie FCU • Central Credit Union of Maryland • Educational Systems FCU • FRB Federal Credit Union • Transportation FCU • Point Breeze Credit Union

“We’re hoping this campaign of shopping local and shopping Maryland will help educate folks who maybe haven’t had the in-store shopping experience lately,” Towles said.

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The National Retail Federation expects Americans are spending $997 this holiday season, a $50 drop from 2019.

Towles said that money needs to stay here in Baltimore in a pandemic. She acknowledged the frustration of being a local business owner.

“It’s not always easy to take that next step or to innovate but we’re working really hard,” she said. “All of us here in Fells Point, not just at Amuse Toys to be here for our community. We want you to be there for us.”

Stephanie Fleishman’s 2910 in Canton is a community staple. Her shop is a Baltimore, Maryland hub from apparel to merchandise, but she needs help too.

“I got an email from somebody who was supposed to pick up an order that’s been sitting here for a week,” she said. “She messaged me and said her two-year-old daughter had Covid and she was now concerned about coming out and I immediately called her up and said you stay where you are. I’m going to deliver to you on the way home.”

It’s this loyalty these local shops give you that in turn, they say they need from you.

Towles was emotional when WJZ asks if she sees a light at the end of the tunnel in this era of Coronavirus.

“We are working with total uncertainty from supply chains to customer loyalty,” she said, her voice breaking. “What’s going to be more important? Loyalty and supporting small business or convenience and I’m hopeful that these kinds of initiatives will tip the scale to supporting local businesses.”

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.