ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate plans to add about $520 million to Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to help the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, leading Democrats who control the chamber announced Wednesday.
Democrats are keeping the Republican governor’s proposals in his $1 billion plan over several years. The Senate’s proposed additions would come this year, focusing largely on education, business, health, housing aid transportation and unemployment assistance.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Maryland: 932 New Cases Reported, 11 More Deaths
It would bring the total amount of the proposal to almost $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year.
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“This is the immediate relief that Marylanders need,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said. “We agree with the governor with his relief act that he’s put forward, and these additions are the targeted supports that we know are going to be most important to help Marylanders and small businesses make it through this crisis, so that 2021 can truly be the year of rebuilding and recovery.”
Hogan’s plan includes direct stimulus payments to low-to-moderate income residents, with benefits of up to $750 for families and $450 for individuals. The governor’s plan also includes sales tax credits of up to $3,000 a month for four months for small businesses. The governor’s proposal is on top of roughly $700 million the state already has allocated in aid relating to the pandemic.
“Much of their proposal consists of things we’ve already done or are doing through $700 million in economic assistance programs, but we appreciate that they agree on the urgent need for additional relief for Marylanders, and look forward to working with them,” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said.
The Senate is moving swiftly to pass the legislation, which the governor and leaders in the General Assembly have made a priority of the legislative session, which convened two weeks ago. The House would also have to approve the proposal.
The Senate’s budget committee will debate the legislation Thursday, and a vote could come as soon as next week.
Lawmakers plan to tap a number of funds in state government over this fiscal year and the next to pay for the plan. A large part, about $320 million, would come from the state’s rainy day fund.
Sen. Guy Guzzone, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s budget committee, said the proposal is largely possible due to actions already taken by President Joe Biden. For example, the Biden administration has extended an enhanced match for Medicaid through December, and the plan calls for using a portion of those additional dollars, Guzzone said.
Another $100 million would come from a local income tax reserve fund, Guzzone said. About $150 million would come from the state’s retirement program over two years — $75 million in each year — money that is above what is required but has been used to shore up the system.
Isabel Molina was furloughed from Johns Hopkins Medicine in March and laid off a month later.
“I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I’m not here for handouts. Honestly, I would like to get back in the workforce,” she said.
She said thinking about filing her taxes makes her cringe because currently unemployment benefits would be taxed. Hogan’s plan repeals all state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits.
Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat representing portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, echoed her comments about getting back into the workforce.
“Marylanders want to work. We need to give them the opportunity to work and with this package, we’ll help them get back to work,” Rosapepe said.
A look at some of the plan’s highlights:
—$50 million to provide eight weeks of summer school or tutoring for 25,000 students.
—$50 million for local governments to accelerate in-person education.
—$15 million for job training at community colleges.
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—$22 million to restore benefits for about 7,500 people and increase grants for 15,000 disabled people by $100 a month.
—$13 million to support volunteer firefighters.
—$10 million for food banks.
—$9 million for utility debt of 10,800 households.
—$30 million for up to 6,000 nonprofits with grants of $5,000 or more.
—$10 million in grants for 680 artists, art districts and art organizations.
—$40 million for assistance of up to $12,000 for up to 3,300 businesses that don’t collect sales tax.
—$26 million in relief for restaurants that have not received past assistance.
—$10 million in grants for entertainment venues and promoters.
—$40 million in grants of $1,000 a person for people with suspended unemployment insurance, now about 39,000 people.
—$20 million for mobile crisis and stand-alone walk-in crisis services for treatment of mental health and substance-use disorders.
—$14 million to provide 25,000 people in health enterprise zones to address disparities.
—$25 million to erase housing debt of about 5,000 people and provide emergency housing for 30 days for 5,555.
—$30 million to restore transit services.
—$25 million to restore funds for road maintenance.MORE NEWS: Rockville Police Officer, Maryland National Guardsman Daniel Morozewicz Arrested On Child Porn Charge
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