Senator Eckardt’s update: Spreading the word on legislation's effects to Shore

By Addie Eckardt, Special to Dorchester Banner
Posted 4/30/22

ANNAPOLIS - After wrapping up the 2022 Legislative Session April 18, our office has been hard at work distributing information on legislation passed in the General Assembly that will impact the …

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Senator Eckardt’s update: Spreading the word on legislation's effects to Shore

Posted

ANNAPOLIS - After wrapping up the 2022 Legislative Session April 18, our office has been hard at work distributing information on legislation passed in the General Assembly that will impact the Shore. For example, we have presented the highlights along with the rest of the delegation to the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce, the Wicomico County Council and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.

There were significant discussions about family medical leave and how this will impact small businesses locally. Other issues of concern include wastewater treatment, BIP ponds and septic within our counties. Next week, we have the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Session Update.

I also currently serve as a member on the Behavioral Health Advisory Council, whose goal is to ensure a coordinated, quality system of care for individuals who have behavioral health disorders and their family members across the state of Maryland. The Behavioral Health Advisory Council’s Executive Committee met to determine local input for the state plan, and had conversations on how to review the information received from the local jurisdictions for a comprehensive plan.

Bay Crossing Study

The combined Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study: Tier 1 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) has been published and is available for review at baycrossingstudy.com and, as of April 22, at several local libraries. The combined FEIS/ROD has been prepared pursuant to NEPA and has been approved by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA identified Corridor 7, the corridor containing the Bay Bridge, as the Selected Corridor Alternative. The approval of the FEIS/ROD marks completion of the Tier 1 NEPA Study.

The Bay Crossing Study Tier 1 NEPA evaluated a range of alternatives, including a no-build alternative, four modal and operational alternatives, and 14 corridor alternatives, to provide expanded traffic capacity and additional access across the Chesapeake Bay to improve mobility, travel reliability and safety at the existing Bay Bridge, while considering financial viability and environmental responsibility.

Any next steps would require additional environmental review through a Tier 2 NEPA Study. A Tier 2 NEPA Study would identify specific alignment alternatives within the two-mile-wide Selected Corridor Alternative identified during Tier 1.

New AHEC executive director

Last week, Ashley Clark was announced as the new executive director for the Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center. Ms. Clark is currently the interim chief operations officer at Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc. and was previously the director of programs and special initiatives. In these roles she secured and managed over $10 million in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, and she has been lauded for achievements in program development, administration and operations.

Prior to her time at SCDA, Ms. Clark was the manager at Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care. She was responsible for efforts to promote equity throughout the Commonwealth by improving access to quality care, supporting the development of innovative models of care, and addressing barriers related to rurality.

As a member of the ESAHEC board of directors, I welcome Ms. Clark to the team! She will be replacing Mr. Jake Frego, who had served in this capacity from its founding. I look forward to working with her as we continue to address the health manpower shortage and existing health needs on the Eastern Shore.

Drug Takeback Day

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, most addictions to opioids start with misuse of a prescription found in a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet. Even if none of your expired medications are addictive opioids, it is extremely dangerous to take any prescription without the supervision of a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.

Visit dea.gov/takebackday to find a collection site near you. If a takeback program is not available, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends following these steps:

  • Mix the medication with used coffee grounds or cat litter and dish soap.
  • Put the mixture in a sealable bag or a disposable container with a lid.
  • Remove the prescription number and any personal information from the original prescription label.
  • Dispose of the medicine and its original container in a trash can.

Do not flush unwanted medicines down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless the prescription label specifically says that is the correct disposal process.

Although the National Prescription Drug Takeback Day is April 30, checking your cabinet for expired or unwanted medicines and dropping them off at a collection site is something that can be done at any time.

Women Legislators of Maryland

The Women Legislators of Maryland was founded in 1972 when Delegate Pauline Menes was offered a position as chair of the Bathroom Committee and given a fur-lined toilet seat by Speaker Lowe to mark the “momentous” occasion. Del. Menes used the opportunity of the offensive joke to utilize the power given to chairpersons of committees to advocate for leadership positions for women.

To celebrate 50 years of leadership advocating for policies that empower women and families in the state of Maryland, a video was released that documents some of the Caucus’ highlights over the last 50 years with the hope of maintaining some of its institutional memory which can easily be lost due to transition in leadership due to the annual election process.

Public Schools Strategic Planning

The Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education recently launched the Maryland Public Schools Strategic Planning Survey. The State Board and MSDE invite all Marylanders to participate in the survey to help shape the department’s organizational direction as it leads the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. 

Guidance on COVID-19 requests

On March 21, 2020, FEMA extended the Request for Public Assistance deadline nationally for the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. At the time, FEMA stated that the RPA submission period would remain open for the duration of the Public Health Emergency, as declared by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, unless an earlier deadline is deemed appropriate by the Assistant Administrator, Recovery Directorate. As of March 31, 2022, over 65% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. Caseloads are declining and, in turn, the necessity for heightened public health measures is decreasing. As such, FEMA is establishing July 1, 2022, as the deadline for applicants to submit their Request for Public Assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic incident. RPAs are how applicants sign up with FEMA in order to submit projects to request funding for specific costs.

EMA is also establishing Dec. 31, 2022, as the interim deadline for eligible applicants to submit project applications for COVID-19 work completed from the beginning of the incident period on Jan. 20, 2020, through July 1, 2022, the end date for 100% federal funding.

FEMA: $405M to emergency managers

FEMA released the funding notice for the Emergency Management Performance Grant program, making $405.1 million available to assist state, local, tribal and territorial governments in developing their emergency management capabilities and for all-hazards preparedness activities.

This is one of the highest ever annual amounts awarded for this grant, because of the combined release of $355.1 million through annual appropriations and an additional $50 million in funding through the “Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.”

This application period opened at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 13, and closes at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, June 13.

Eligible applicants must submit an initial application by June 6, through the Grants.gov. FEMA will notify eligible applicants to proceed with submitting their complete application package in the Non-Disaster (ND) Grants System by the application deadline. FEMA anticipates that all awards will be made no later than Sept. 30.