Federal Stimulus Package to Bring Billions to Maryland, Senators Say

Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen (left) and Benjamin L. Cardin are calling for more help for businesses to survive the COVID-19 crisis. Photo by Robin Bravender

A series of bills intending to fuel ailing U.S. industries in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak is poised to bring billions of dollars to Maryland.

The $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday night by a vote of 96-0 has been sent to the House of Representatives.

“Our healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus need our help now, as do American families, workers, and small businesses who are being hit by the economic fallout,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) said in a statement after the package’s passage late Wednesday.

The package carries a number of bailout measures for industries across the board, from hospitals to transportation, as well as money that goes directly into the public’s pockets.

If enacted, one-time payments of $1,200 would be delivered to adults in households under a certain income level who have filed tax returns or receive Social Security or disability benefits.

Additional money will be made available for children.

Van Hollen said during a joint phone conference with U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) that he fought to ensure that the amount to be received by low-income earners was not diminished.

Along with the assistance for individuals comes wide-ranging state benefit.

Van Hollen said that under the package, Maryland’s counties and municipalities would see nearly $2.3 billion in income through state and localization funds that can be applied flexibly for a number of necessary services.

Because of their large population, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County will be able to pull that money directly from the U.S. Treasury to the tune of $100 million-$150 million each.

Maryland would also qualify for a number of funding programs benefiting emergency housing, K-12 education and childcare services.

The package is also set to provide further small business relief.

If the legislation is enacted, business owners can apply for no-cost 7(a) loans through financial institutions that will be applied as grants. According to a news release on Cardin’s website, individuals are eligible to apply for up to 2.5 times the cost of their payroll, allowing them to continue paying employees during the public health crisis and have some funds left over for other business expenses.

Businesses and nonprofits would also be eligible for Disaster Relief Loans — similarly applied as grants — of up to $10,000 through the Small Business Administration.

The senators also noted the hit that public transportation is taking due to the viral outbreak.

Van Hollen said that the state will receive $645 million for transportation, citing cuts in revenue stemming from dwindling ridership on MARC and Metro trains and different bus systems around the state.

This does not include money intended to bail out Amtrak or the airline industry.

Both senators reiterated their support for Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s (R) request Wednesday that President Trump declare Maryland a disaster area — which was granted late Thursday evening.

Both senators also addressed the anticipated hospital overflow and supply shortage.

The congressional relief package includes a $100 billion stimulus to hospitals across the country, which Cardin said Maryland will see a portion of. He also said that a measure will allocate funding for expanded telehealth programs.

Van Hollen said that there are measures in place for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide state and local jurisdictions with adequate personal protective equipment and tests. Maryland will see about $11 million towards that initiative.

During the teleconference, the senators were asked to address the supply shortage in spite of the now abundant funding.

Cardin said that there is no question that the country is under-prepared for the virus, recalling the slow response when it became apparent that it would spread to the U.S.

“It was not done the way it should have been done,” he said, before praising Hogan for the action he has taken to minimize the virus’ spread and get the state prepared for the anticipated spike in cases.

Van Hollen mentioned an earlier call for the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow the president the authority to direct private companies to manufacture supplies.

He said that the reason that the country is seeing a “bottleneck” now is partially due to the fact that the Trump administration “dragged its feet for so long in exercising those authorities.”

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Hannah Gaskill
Hannah Gaskill received her master’s of journalism degree in December 2019 from the University of Maryland. She previously worked on the print layout design team at The Diamondback, reported on criminal justice in Maryland for Capital News Service and served as a production assistant for The Confluence — the daily news magazine on 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR member station. Gaskill has had bylines in The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, among other publications.Before pursuing journalism, she received her bachelor’s of fine art degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. She grew up in Ocean City.