ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate granted preliminary approval Wednesday to two bills for providing money toward coronavirus relief and the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities.
The Senate added amendments to the coronavirus relief package from Gov. Larry Hogan. The more than $1 billion package includes stimulus payments for some residents, grants and tax breaks for businesses and education to help provide in-person instruction in schools this year.
The Senate approved 11 amendments with the legislation to expand funding for caterers and bars, money for the schools for the deaf and blind and distribute money based on a jurisdiction’s population.
Another amendment would offer $1,000 grants for those still on unemployment, but “is pending a determination of eligibility and has been in adjudication for at least 30 days.”
Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County) said many of her constituents still haven’t received unemployment benefits from last year.
“We still have people who are pending since last April,” she said. “I don’t know that I have confidence we’re going to make sure all of our people are addressed.”
Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard County), who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee, said the state Department of Labor produces a list to assess eligibility.
“The desire is to get [money] out as quickly as possible,” he said.
The Senate could grant final approval for the emergency bill as early as Friday.
The HBCU bill would provide $577 million over a 10-year period to help settle a more than 14-year-old lawsuit that largely deals with predominantly white institutions duplicating programs from the state’s four HBCUs — Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
The funding would be for such items as enhancing or expanding current academic programs, implementing new courses in-person and online, and scholarships.
Sen. Melony Griffith (D-District 25) said the bill is “historic,” especially since it came during Black History Month.
“As we reflect on the leaders on whose shoulders we stand, it is fitting that we help end the long, ongoing lawsuit and the wrong it seeks to correct,” she said after the session ended Wednesday.
Although the Senate could grant final approval Friday, a final settlement between the parties must be reached by June 11, according to the legislation.