As the Biden administration continues to pursue a COVID-19 relief package for millions of Americans, lawmakers in Maryland crossed the finish line on behalf of residents and business owners Friday.

Both members in the House and Senate approved the more than $1 billion stimulus and economic legislation slated to provide tax relief for small businesses and support for nonprofit organizations.

Most important, low-income residents have been promised to receive stimulus checks from the state this month.

“We provided relief that Marylanders need to make it through the rest of this unbelievable crisis so that 2021 can be the year of true recovery and rebuilding,” Senate President Bill Ferguson said during a virtual press briefing. “It was a lot work. Compromise is always hard but where we landed is a place where we are targeting resources for Maryland’s most vulnerable.”

The compromise nearly failed when the House of Delegates sought to add a controversial provision for the inclusion of immigrant workers which several senators vigorously opposed. But Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones agreed to drop it from the legislation, the RELIEF Act first presented by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The House voted in favor of the legislation, 128-1, while the Senate approved it unanimously, 45-0.

“This is a clear message to Marylanders everywhere … relief is on its way,” said Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery County). “Not next year. Not in the next month but now. We put partisanship aside.”

Senate Minority Whip Michael J. Hough agreed.

“It’s good to come together in a bipartisan moment,” said the Republican senator who represents portions of Frederick and Carroll counties. “There was some haggling in the House chamber. It’s not a perfect bill. Compromises are never perfect. This is a good bill overall.”

Del. Rick Impallaria, a Republican who represents portions of Baltimore and Harford counties, represented the only “no” vote.

The legislation goes into effect when the governor signs it into law. A Hogan spokesman did not respond to an email for comment.

The emergency legislation would provide stimulus checks up to $450 for individuals, up to $750 for families benefiting an estimated 400,000 people. It would be based on those who qualified for earned income tax credit in 2019 and those eligible in 2020.

About $300 million would come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help cover the lion’s share of the disbursed funds. The rest of the money would come from other reserves such as a local income tax and retirement program in the fiscal year budgets for 2021 and 2022. An estimated 55,000 businesses would receive a sales tax credit of up to $3,000 for four months, totaling $12,000.

Before the votes occurred in both chambers, Ferguson and Jones released a joint statement that noted that legislation will be presented next week to allow low-income workers who are not residents to receive an earned income tax credit benefit. However, workers must have a valid Social Security number if they wish to claim the credit.
Legislators want all residents to benefit from the bill.

“No Marylander deserves to wonder where their next meal will come from, how to buy their child’s diapers, or how to pay for life-saving medicine — especially when they go to work every single day,” the joint statement added.

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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