Gov. Larry Hogan wants state lawmakers to pass a $1 billion COVID-19 economic relief bill that includes stimulus payments for about 400,000 eligible Marylanders.
The Republican said Monday that the bill, if passed, would provide a total of $270 million in stimulus money to individuals and families who qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2019 and 2020.
Families would receive up to $750 and individuals would receive up to $450 under the “RELIEF Act,” which Hogan will ask legislators to pass when they convene for the first time in 2021 on Wednesday.
“I cannot imagine anything that could possibly be more important for the legislature to pass,” Hogan said.
The emergency legislation would also provide millions of dollars in tax breaks and relief by repealing all state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits paid out in 2020 and into the future, allowing small businesses to keep up to $12,000 in sales tax, and blocking significant increases in unemployment taxes for 2021.
Hogan said funding for the RELIEF Act will come from several sources: savings from a series of budget cuts the state spending board made earlier this year, the state’s reserve fund and the Rainy Day Fund.
The bill will need to win approval from the 188-member General Assembly, where Democrats have supermajorities in both chambers.
Hogan said he has spoken generally about the bill with House and Senate leadership, and that lawmakers agree that COVID-19 relief should be a key focus of their legislative session.
Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones said little about their plans for Hogan’s proposal in a joint statement released after Monday’s news conference.
“The members of the General Assembly have spent the interim putting together legislation to fix a broken unemployment insurance system, protect essential workers, provide aid to struggling small businesses and greater resources for family members in nursing homes,” the pair said.
“This session, Democrats are focused on getting families and small businesses back on their feet; getting students back to school as soon as possible; and ensuring our seniors are safe so 2021 can become the year of rebuilding and recovery. We look forward to the Governor working with us to accomplish these goals and demonstrating for the country what the true value of bipartisanship can be.”
Hogan on Monday also described his plans for additional federal relief that Maryland will receive through the long-awaited stimulus bill that Congress passed last month.
The stimulus package will include billions more in Paycheck Protection Program loans for Maryland businesses and $4 billion in stimulus checks for individuals and enhanced unemployment benefits.
The Maryland stimulus money would be in addition to federal stimulus checks.
The federal relief will provide $600 stimulus checks and $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits.
Through the federal bill, Maryland will also be able to provide $400 million for rental assistance, $1 billion for education, $130 million for child care and $250 million for transportation once more federal guidance is available, Hogan said.
His administration has faced repeated calls to provide more aid throughout the pandemic, especially as COVID-19 cases worsened in the winter and forced more businesses to close down.
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A coalition of state and local officials and federal lawmakers this weekend called for Hogan to provide direct $2,000 stimulus payments to Maryland’s most vulnerable residents and additional aid to small businesses.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who is running to replace Hogan as governor in 2022, said Monday that Maryland families need immediate help in the form of executive action.
“Maryland families need help now, but instead the Governor is passing the buck to the legislature,” Franchot said in a statement. “The Governor knows that he has the power to authorize direct cash payments to those in crisis right now.”
Franchot has advocated using $1.5 billion from the state’s reserves to make the larger payments to Marylanders in need.
“The Governor’s plan, regrettably, falls woefully short at not only providing the adequate amount families need, but the speed in which it will be distributed,” Franchot said.
Hogan on Monday said Franchot’s plan was not feasible and would drain the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Madeleine O’Neill covers the Maryland State House and state issues for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @maddioneill.