August 7, 2020
The end of July and beginning of August are traditionally slow times for the Maryland General Assembly, but not this year. Between preparing for what it looks like for the legislature to reconvene in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic, working with constituents facing unprecedented hardships, and monitoring the State's response to COVID-19, this summer is anything but normal.

Constituent services remains my office's top priority and we stand ready to assist in any way possible. If you're having trouble navigating Maryland's unemployment insurance system, didn't receive your P-EBT benefits, or there is anything else we can do to help, please reach out via phone by calling (410) 841-3600 and leave a message to be returned promptly, or via email at
COVID-19 Updates
I continue to be concerned about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in Maryland as they have spiked dramatically over the past two weeks. One of the most notable statistics is the combined ICU and acute care hospital bed rate, which now sits near 85%. The Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup will be reconvening next Wednesday (8/12) as we continue to monitor whether appropriate steps are being taken to slow the spread.

One of those important steps happened last Wednesday when Governor Hogan ordered everyone older than five to wear masks in public buildings and outside when social distancing is not possible. What that means in practice can be confusing so The Baltimore Sun put together this helpful guide of when a mask is required. A public health advisory was also issued to urge residents to avoid travel to states where positive COVID-19 results are greater than 10 percent and quarantine until a negative test came back if they must make that trip.

These measures are prudent, but more consistent messaging from Governor Hogan is necessary so Marylanders can make informed decisions to protect themselves and those they come into contact with. The decision to give local control over reopenings based on available health data to county governments, but then shift that control to private institutions when he disagreed with local decisions sends the absolute wrong signal. The worst thing we can do right now is undermine our public health experts who are acting in the best interest of their residents.
I am constantly inspired and humbled by the work of Maryland’s front-line workers as they put themselves at risk every day to care for others during the COVID-19 pandemic. The risk they take to care for others was brought home with the passing of Dr. Joseph Costa, chief of the critical care division at Mercy Medical Center. A dedicated emergency-room physician, Dr. Costa died surrounded by his husband of 28-years and a gathering of his co-workers in the unit that he oversaw. “When the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need,” read a statement from Mercy Medical. We owe Dr. Costa and all of the other brave and committed front-line workers of Maryland our deepest gratitude and support.
Critical Eviction and Housing Recommendations
As federal and State moratoriums on evictions expire, an estimated 290,000 Marylanders are in danger of losing their homes during the worst unemployment and economic crisis in recent history. Governor Hogan has refused to extend the moratorium, instead offering $30 million in rental assistance from the State. While this is a good start, the estimated need is closer to $150 million.

Last week, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Housing Workgroup, chaired by Senator Shelly Hettleman, released a months-long analysis that drew on input from landlords, tenants, and advocacy organizations. It is my sincere hope that Governor Hogan will implement the Workgroup’s 12 recommendations, including immediately extending the eviction moratorium until the state of emergency is lifted. As eviction proceedings are beginning to resume, I have put together a document to help Marylander’s navigate the process, including contact information for organizations providing legal and other aid to qualifying residents.
Education Roundup
School districts across the State have announced their various reopening plans over the last few weeks and you can see what each district is doing here. I firmly believe that we are framing the conversation around reopening school buildings incorrectly. The question shouldn't be whether schools are open or closed. The questions should be which students are learning in-person, at what time, and under what conditions. COVID-19 is complex and our response must reflect that.

The key is having clear metrics and a path towards safe reopening. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has not provided the guidance and leadership required to allow schools districts to best serve their students, especially younger children and those with special needs. The vacuum of leadership at the state level is being felt acutely as many districts remain shuttered to begin the next school year, reflecting the underlying local conditions and community spread. A set of recommendations is no substitute for a real plan and our districts need uniform guidance.

In a perplexing move this week, the Governor has attempted to strip authority from local governments to make decisions on closing all schools within their boundaries, despite health officials’ warning that in-person learning will put students and faculty at risk. Everyone wants to reopen school buildings and get students back into the classroom, but making that happen is entirely dependent on getting the state’s positivity rate down. That means adhering to the CDC’s recommendations: testing, mask-wearing, limiting gathering size, and decisions based on real science.
2020 General Election Concerns
Governor Hogan is doubling down on his decision to move forward with a statewide in-person Election this November, despite pleas from election officials who say they are short well over 10,000 election judges needed to open all of the State’s polling places. Over-burdened local board want to slash the number of voting locations and move them to larger arenas in an effort to respond to the Governor’s decision.

Mailing actual ballots to every citizen instead of an application will lessen the burden on local boards of election and allow Marylanders to cast their ballots safely. I have continued advocating to the Maryland Board of Elections in the strongest possible terms to take action, even if Governor Hogan will not, but the majority of the Board has so far been resistent despite there being zero evidence of voter fraud as a result of mail-in voting. The State Board of Elections is meeting again at 2pm today and may adjust their current current plan.

Absent of further action, I highly encourage you to request your mail-in ballot as soon as possible by going to The earlier you request your ballot, the lower the burden on your election board and more likely you are to receive your ballot with plenty of time to fill it out due to delays with mail delivery.
More Highlights
After previously closing indoor dining, Mayor Young has instituted a new executive order re-allowing indoor dining at 25% capacity beginning at 5pm today. The order also applies to a number of other indoor activities as outlined above.

I'm grateful to Senator Craig Zucker for his advocay on behalf of Maryland's child-care providers. They are critical to getting Marylanders back to work, yet many are having difficulty keeping their lights on and deserve support so they can continue serving Maryland families.

While Maryland COVID-19 cases tick upwards, the Maryland Department of Health has announced it will stop paying for the weekly mandated testing of nursing home staff. Federal funding under the Cares Act may be available to cover the cost, but most facilities say it is not enough when burdened with the expense of additional protective equipment and hazard pay for employees. 
In an editorial this week, The Baltimore Sun urged Governor Hogan to provide leadership for the state’s COVID-19 response instead of forcing local leaders to “make the tough decisions” that he will not. The Sun commended local leaders for tightening restrictions in their jurisdictions, but said a more unified approach is needed to stem the recent surge in cases.

Senator Andy Serafini is retiring from the Senate after serving Western Maryland in Annapolis for 12 years. In a time when it is sometimes difficult to believe in bipartisanship and collegiality, Senator Serafini has been a shining example of how government can succeed. Last year, he shared my vision for a bipartisan consensus around our State's most pressing issues, and thanks to his willingness to engage and compromise, we achieved historic results. We are going to truly miss him.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at, or phone via (410) 841-3600 by leaving a voicemail to be returned promptly.