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Advocacy group Maryland Nonprofits asks state for $100 million to serve needy communities

The Maryland State House as seen on April 12, 2021. Photo by Bruce DePuyt.

The advocacy group Maryland Nonprofits is asking policymakers for $100 million of the state government’s budget surplus to help community organizations across the state serve needy residents.

In a wish list released last week, the membership organization for nonprofits argued that they play a critical role in improving equity and quality of life in local communities but are often neglected by the government.

The extra money would boost resources for nonprofit organizations and help them increase services to the communities they serve.

In its policy priorities paper, Maryland Nonprofits noted that the state government has scaled back considerably, and that services for the needy took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Especially since the pandemic, nonprofit service providers have been struggling to support and sustain their workforce in the face of inadequate funding and reimbursement rates,” the group wrote. “These providers play a crucial role in supporting those with disabilities, and providing behavioral and mental healthcare, childcare, and senior services. While the current budget provides some relief, service reimbursements and wage rates for nonprofits must keep pace with mandated staffing requirements and the real competitive costs of hiring, developing and retaining staff…”

The group is urging policymakers to create a new position in state government to help funnel the proposed $100 million to nonprofit organizations around the state.

The 2023 Maryland Nonprofits board chair, Walter Simmons, said he is excited to work with legislators to create solutions for the state’s systemic challenges.

“Maryland Nonprofits is the only organization in Maryland that is advocating for the statewide nonprofit sector and public interest,” he said.

Maryland Nonprofits, which represents about 1,400 nonprofit groups with membership and advocates totaling 37,000, says that its purpose is to ensure “equal distribution of resources to best serve the citizens of Maryland.”

According to its statement, Maryland Nonprofits will work with advocates across the state on a variety of policy priorities in 2023:

  • Social justice, diversity and representation, particularly efforts to redress racism in criminal sentencing and expanding bilingual services in the state;
  • Housing relief and path to homeownership;
  • Public safety, especially reducing gun violence and expanding victims’ services programs;
  • Transforming and improving mass transit;
  • Protecting Marylanders’ health;
  • Protecting the environment;
  • Investment in government and nonprofit services, workforce and infrastructure;
  • Strengthening the partnership between government and the nonprofit Community.

On the health front, the nonprofits are pushing for an increase in the availability of free or low-cost public health services, including vaccines, testing and treatments. They also are seeking more state investment in coordinated community behavioral health services.

The groups are also seeking a renewal of expiring funding for the state’s Health Equity Resource Communities program, and youth health coverage. And they are pushing for expansion and better access to public assistance programs like SNAP, school breakfast programs, and other systems that combat food insecurity.

Heather Iliff, president & CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, said that available resources must be distributed to nonprofits and communities that are in need.

“As providers of essential community services and drivers of economic development, nonprofits are part of our public service infrastructure,” she said. “We need to ensure that available resources are equitably allocated to communities that need it most and the nonprofits serving them.”

Nationally, Maryland Nonprofits supports the Nonprofit Strength and Partnership Act. The initiative, introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), “establishes a formal partnership between federal policymakers and nonprofit organizations to ensure the needs of nonprofits and their communities are considered at the beginning of policy development and implementation,” according to a statement from McCollum’s office.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nonprofit industry hires 13% of Maryland’s private sector workforce, which is more than every other private sector outside of retail.