ANNAPOLIS — As of April 2, there were officially 11 days left in the legislative session for 2021. This week, the Senate debated House Bill 670 - Police Reform and Accountability Act of 2021.
While I was happy with much of the bipartisan package passed by the Senate earlier this session, I have serious concerns about House Bill 670. I have worked with our local departments and crisis intervention teams (CITs) throughout the years and have witnessed the innovative approaches they have taken on the Shore.
I have seen the positive changes that have been made and am worried that House Bill 670 will go too far, and strain our system that already fails to recruit enough officers to meet our public safety needs. Many of our bipartisan Senate bills have stalled in the House.
Of the six bills that passed unanimously out of the Senate, only three have moved in the House. I believe our Senate bills were a more fair and equitable police reform package.
In addition, I presented three bills in the House of Delegates:
• Senate Bill 796 - Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities and Maryland Health Care Commission – Reporting Requirements
• Senate Bill 697 - State Procurement - Minority Business Enterprise Program - Participation by Gender or Race
• Senate Bill 744 - State Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistant Advisory Committee - Membership and Meetings
Four of my bills have also passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates and will go to the Governor’s desk:
• Senate Bill 153 - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - Municipal Electric Utilities
• Senate Bill 262 - Department of Information Technology - Study of a Common Information Technology Platform for Health Occupations Boards
• Senate Bill 476 - Health Occupations - Nurses - Delegation of Tasks
• Senate Bill 794 - Wicomico County - Property Tax Credit - Hotel or Residential Development
If you have any questions regarding legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/.
American Rescue Plan
Last week, a bipartisan agreement was reached for American rescue plan funding. I am extremely happy this funding includes $300 million for broadband, including both infrastructure and assistance for low-income families. Major components of the agreement include:
• $1.1 billion to shore up the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund
• $8000 million to support existing state relief programs
• $600 million to support the safe reopening of Maryland schools
• $500 million to support the Department of Transportation and Transportation Authority to improve services and infrastructure
• $300 million to invest in broadband
• $300 million to support Marylanders in need through temporary cash assistance, temporary disability assistance, utility arrearage assistance, and nursing homes.
• $75 million for apprenticeships and employment training programs
• $100 million to support state employees providing essential services including frontline healthcare workers, corrections officer, and police officers.
Much of this was codified in a fifth supplemental budget.
Applications are now open for the Maryland Small Business COVID-19 RELIEF Grant Program. Funding is extremely limited and may ultimately result in approval on a first-come, first-served basis. The application process will be open for a limited period, and Commerce anticipates substantial interest in these programs.
To apply for this program, you must first create an account here. Once you have an account, you will receive an email with a link to the application and be asked to login. Applications are accepted through April 6 at 11:59 p.m.
SBA Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
The U.S. Small Business Administration is opening the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program on April 8. The program will provide over $16 billion in economic relief to target industries. Those interested should sign up for alerts at svograntportal.sba.gov/s/.
Last week, Maryland opened up vaccines to Phase 2B, which includes Marylanders 16 and older with underlying conditions that increase the chance for serious COVID-19 illness.
As more vaccines become available, Tidal Health has created a “Stand-By” List to ensure that no vaccine is wasted. Those that live within 45 minutes of the Civic Center, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, or TidalHealth Nanticoke can sign up at surveymonkey.com/r/standbyvaccine.
The mass vaccination site at the Wicomico County Civic Center has numerous appointments available. Those eligible for the COVID Vaccine can pre-register for the facility at https://onestop.md.gov/preregistration. When appointment slots are not reserved by eligible
Marylanders, standby appointments are released on the web at massvax.maryland.gov/.
Individuals can check their eligibility at covidlink.maryland.gov/content/vaccine/#current
Health Benefit Exchange
The Maryland Health Connection will extend its current Coronavirus Special Enrollment Period until August 15th. Marylanders can sign up atmarylandhealthconnection.gov/. Free help is available over the phone from more than 700 certified navigators and brokers at marylandhealthconnection.gov/find-help/. In addition, individuals can call 1-855-642-8572 toll-free from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Help is available in 200 languages.
Extension of Foreclosure Moratorium
The Maryland Department of Labor’s (Labor) Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation has announced the extension of the moratorium on new residential foreclosures through May 3, 2021. Homeowners who are facing foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage should contact the company where they send their monthly payments to request assistance. Homeowners can also call the Maryland HOPE hotline at 1-877-462-7555 for a referral to a nonprofit housing advocate. Additional information and resources about mortgage relief and foreclosure prevention can be found by visiting the department’s website at labor.maryland.gov/finance/consumers/frmortgagecovid.shtml.