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COVID-19 in Maryland Government & Politics

Md. Senators Outline Where Federal Relief Funds Will Go

The recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will mean billions in direct relief for Marylanders and local governments, an effort that lawmakers hope will help families and hard-hit businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D) outlined how the relief effort will help Marylanders, local governments and businesses in a release this week.

“From direct payments to Marylanders working to make ends meet, to an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that will lift thousands of Marylanders out of poverty, the American Rescue Plan is the bold relief our state needs at this moment,” Van Hollen said in the release.

Cardin, the chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, warned that the pandemic is “far from over,” and underscored the need for relief.

“We are investing in our future by investing in vaccines, testing, contact tracing, public health, and all we need to finally get control of and bring an end to this public health crisis,” Cardin said.

Here’s how some of the American Rescue Plan’s trillion-dollar relief efforts will affect Maryland:

Direct aid to Marylanders

Roughly 2.5 million Maryland households will see direct stimulus payments as part of the latest Congressional relief effort, totaling $6.25 billion. Individuals earning up to $75,000 and joint tax filers earning up to $150,000 will be eligible for the maximum payments – up to $1,400 for individuals and $2,800 for joint filers. Eligible dependents will also qualify for stimulus checks.

The American Rescue Plan also expands the federal child tax credit for the 2021 tax year, meaning eligible families could see thousands in savings. According to the release from Van Hollen and Cardin, that will benefit 85% of Maryland’s children, and lift 52,000 children out of poverty in the state.

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is also expanded as part of the effort, according to Van Hollen and Cardin, affecting roughly 255,000 Maryland workers. State legislators expanded Maryland’s own EITC as part of the billion-dollar RELIEF Act – and extended those provisions to people who filed taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN), who are currently excluded from the federal EITC.

And the new federal aid package also extends current expanded unemployment benefits and provides $318 million in emergency rental assistance, the senators said. It provides millions in relief for homeowners and $166 million to help low-income families afford heating and cooling costs. Additionally, the act will send billions toward mortgage and utility assistance, $510 million to support homeless services providers and food banks, and $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will see a 15% benefit increase through September, and states will see more funding to deal with increased caseloads. Other nutrition-related efforts in the relief package include funding for senior citizens and broadened meal eligibility for young adults at homeless shelters.

Money for state, local governments

The trillion-dollar relief effort also includes money for state and local governments to “fund emergency services, distribute the vaccine and employ frontline workers,” according to the release. That includes roughly $1.17 billion for county governments and another $1.14 billion for municipal governments.

Cardin and Van Hollen said at a press conference earlier this week that state and local governments will have more leeway over how to spend this round of government funding. Van Hollen said one stipulation is that the funding can’t be used to reduce taxes. Local governments will need to use that money to “meet the burdens of COVID-19, he said, like expanding broadband infrastructure.

The state government will also receive $3.87 billion in direct funding.

Small business and transportation relief

Van Hollen and Cardin note in their statement that small businesses continue to struggle in Maryland, with yearly revenue down for 30%. The proposal includes billions to boost the Paycheck Protection Program, $28.6 billion in funding meant to help restaurants, $10 billion for the federal government’s state small business tax credit initiative and $1.25 billion for live entertainment venues.

Transportation agencies will also see a much-needed boost as part of the American Rescue Plan, including:

  • $1.4 billion for transit systems in the Washington, D.C., metro region, including WMATA
  • $353.6 million for the Maryland Transit Administration and other Baltimore-area transit systems
  • $1.02 million for transit systems in and around Aberdeen
  • $1.47 million for transit systems in and around Salisbury
  • $1.44 million for transit systems in Frederick
  • $1.27 million for transit in Waldorf
  • $1.13 million for transit systems in and around Hagerstown
  • $441,234 for transit systems in and around Cumberland
  • $408,639 for transit systems in Westminster-Eldersburg
  • An additional $4.62 Million for rural transit systems throughout Maryland

Airports across the state will also receive funding as part of the emergency legislation.

Education and child care funding

The proposal will also mean $1.95 billion for K-12 education in Maryland, according to the release, including roughly $1.75 billion for local school districts. Another $549 million will go to higher education institutions in the state.

The state will also see $194 million in child care development block grants and $310 million in Child Care Stabilization Grants. The state will also see another $9 million in Child Care Entitlement to States funding.

The direct grant funding isn’t the only piece of the relief legislation meant to help children and parents: Lawmakers also increased the Child and Dependent Care Credit – another provision meant to help parents with child care costs.

Some of the $1.9 trillion plan will go toward bridging the digital divide across the country: The plan includes $7 billion nationally for the Federal Communications Committee’s E-Rate program, which will provide schools and libraries with funding to expand WiFi. It also includes $2.5 billion nationally in state grants to support K-12 students with disabilities, another $200 million for preschoolers with disabilities, and $250 million for infants and toddlers under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, according to the release.

Health care funding nationwide

As already unprecedented vaccine efforts continue to ramp up, the American Rescue Plan also includes $7.5 billion for vaccine distribution, $7.6 billion for community health centers, $6 billion for health research, $10 billion for personal protective equipment, nearly $50 billion for COVID-19 testing and mitigation, and $1 billion for “vaccine confidence activities.”

The act also sends $1.75 billion to help identify new SARS-COV-2 strains, $500 million for Centers for Disease Control data efforts and more than $7.6 billion for the public health workforce. The American Rescue Plan will also “lower or eliminate” health insurance premiums for Americans via increased tax credits and other relief efforts, and designates $8.5 billion to help rural healthcare providers.

The proposal also earmarks billions for behavioral health funding, including $3 billion to curb substance abuse, $420 million for behavioral health clinics and $140 million to “develop a program to support providers’ mental health and decrease burnout of providers and public safety officers,” in addition to new grants for community-based and behavioral health organizations.

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Md. Senators Outline Where Federal Relief Funds Will Go