October 30, 2020
Halloween is almost upon us and I would highly encourage everyone to make decisions that are in the best interest of the health of our neighbors and community. If you’re getting your pirate, dragon, or vampire ready to trick-or-treat tomorrow night, please remember to incorporate COVID-19 prevention methods—wear a mask, stay six-feet apart, and wait to dig into that bag of candy until morning—if you can!

The 46th District Delegation has also been coordinating with the Baltimore Police Department and all of the City agencies involved in ensuring a safe Halloween. Please do not hesitate to reach out, but rest assured that all available resources are being deployed to Fells Point, Federal Hill, and the Downtown area to mitigate issues from previous years.

I look forward to participating in The Creative Alliance's Great Halloween Lantern & Día de Los Muertos (Car) Parade. While the parade, like everything else, has had to adapt this year, it's an annual reminder how special it is to raise children in a place as diverse, vibrant, and innovative as Baltimore City.
Vote, Vote, Vote!
I couldn't resist the opportunity to vote in-person on Tuesday at the greatest polling place that may never exist again - Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I am grateful to the many volunteers who cheerfully urged us to social distance, sanitized common surfaces, and kept the line moving. It was an excellent experience!
I’m excited that so many of you made a plan to vote and did so early. Over 588,000 votes have been cast in-person through Thursday and Monday broke the record for the most votes cast in a single day of early voting in State history. More than 1.1 million mail-in ballots have been returned so far. It is clear that Marylanders know what is at stake this November 3rd and want their voices heard.
There are two important ballot questions this election. Question 1 gives Marylanders greater input in the State budget by allowing legislators the flexibility to increase or decrease funding as needs dictate. Question 2 creates a new funding source for Maryland schools by legalizing sports betting in the State. I was proud to vote for both measures when they passed the Maryland General Assembly in the 2020 Legislative Session.
If you haven’t voted, it’s not too late! If you have requested a ballot, please don’t mail it! Place it in a drop-box near you (Baltimore City Drop Box Locations). Slow mail delivery may delay your ballot beyond the November 13th deadline. If you are voting in person, consider an early-voting location (Baltimore Early Voting Centers), open now through November 2nd from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Election Day is November 3rd and will also run from 7a.m. to 8 p.m. (Election Day Polling Places) and as long as you are in line by 8 p.m. you can cast your ballot!
COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Rising
COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, with deaths-per-day up 10 percent over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations in Maryland have spiked and new cases are the highest since August, with those under 40 making-up the majority of positive tests. Almost 4,000 people have died in our State—enough to fill the Hippodrome Theatre, Baltimore’s Center Stage, and the Charles Theatre combined. We must remain vigilant as the days grow shorter and colder and people spend more time indoors.
Although approval of a vaccine may be months away, the Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup met this week to discuss how and to whom it will be distributed. Health care officials stressed the need for broad outreach to encourage Marylanders to trust in the safety of the vaccine, especially after a poll last week revealed that many Marylanders would not get vaccinated if it were available today.
Early quantities of the vaccine will be limited, so Phase I of the distribution plan identifies the first recipients as high-risk health care workers, first responders and nursing home residents, inmates and staff, and those with underlying conditions. Phase II will open up as quantities become available and will include the general population. The Workgroup will continue to meet to ensure that Maryland is responding quickly to the many challenges the pandemic continues to present.
Schools Still Need Guidance (and Resources)
Last week, I had the chance to tour and observe Baltimore’s Remote Learning Centers in action. I was beyond impressed. The joint efforts of the City Schools and Recreation & Parks is an example of the type of partnership we've encouraged for years. The collaborative work was thoughtful, purposeful, and focused on providing the best outcomes for children.
The visit also reinforced what education and public health experts have been telling us for months. It will take a tremendous effort to maintain safe learning environments for teachers and students across the City and State, especially as a second wave is upon us. In order to continue to our forward momentum, we must have coordination and guidance from the Department of Health, the State Superintendent, and Governor Hogan.
Without leadership on the State level, local school districts are put in the impossible position of developing protocols on their own, like establishing testing regimen criteria or deciding the appropriate response to a COVID-19 outbreak in a classroom or community. This patchwork approach engenders confusion and sows distrust at a time when we need everyone to have confidence in the decisions that are made to bring our students back to in-person learning.
Rainy Day Fund Tapped for Small Businesses
Governor Larry Hogan recently tapped $250 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to provide financial relief to small businesses struggling due to the pandemic. Grants will be available to aid with rent, employee salaries, HVAC filtration, and restaurant equipment and services necessary to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

I urge the Governor to ensure that the smallest, most vulnerable of companies are prioritized in the application process and to consider other sectors of our State that may also need financial support. Any use of these funds should be weighed against where it will be the most effective and have the greatest impact on those most in need.
I believe one of the best ways to support Maryland’s small businesses is to shop locally this holiday season. Our support and patronage will allow many struggling shops to stay open, and may well be the best thing we can do for our State!
Next Steps in MES Investigation
The General Assembly is moving forward in its investigation of Roy McGrath's severance package before becoming chief of staff to Governor Hogan for a short time. Last month, Ward B. Coe was appointed as independent counsel to conduct the inquiry into why McGrath received a year’s salary and improper expense reimbursements when he left the Maryland Environmental Service to become the Governor’s top aid.

Subpoenas were issued for McGrath and his colleague, Mathew Sherring, last week. The subpoenas require both to appear before a bi-partisan committee to answer questions about who authorized the tax-payer funded payout and whether the Governor approved payout.
Increasing Apprenticeship Training in Baltimore
This week, I attended the opening of ABC Greater Baltimore’s Construction Education Academy, a new state-of-the-art facility that will help train Maryland’s work force of the future. Instruction and apprenticeships will be offered in plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and carpentry for students, residents, and businesses.
We know that investing in apprenticeship training in Maryland pays dividends and creates access to high paying jobs that revitalize our neighborhoods and our State. I’m proud of the $4 million that the State of Maryland invested in the Hoen Lithograph Building’s renovation to make this week’s opening possible . I'm even more excited to see the outcomes for the Marylanders who are trained there for years to come.
Resumption of City Curbside Recycling Delayed
Unfortunately, curbside recycling pick-up will not resume for several more weeks in Baltimore City. The Department of Public Works announced this week that staffing challenges due to the pandemic has limited their ability to provide both trash and recycling collection services.
Residents will still need to take their recycling to the 14 drop-off locations available throughout the City. Saturday hours have been added as of October 31. I know this is an inconvenience, but I am hoping pickup can resume after the decision is revisited on December 15th.
More News
A newly-released study from the University of Maryland and the State Department of the Environment found that air pollution dropped dramatically during the early days of the pandemic as many Marylanders worked from home and limited travel plans. It is clear that teleworking has made a powerful impact on the quality of our air and should be encouraged as a way to address both pollution and climate change long after the pandemic is in our rear-view mirror.
The percentage of Maryland children testing positive for lead poisoning in 2019 was at a historic low, thanks to universal testing, strong enforcement, and earlier intervention at lower levels of lead poisoning. It is great to see that real progress is being made on a preventable health issue that has plagued our City for decades.

Testing and contact-tracing will be critical as we move into the fall and winter. Maryland is on track to receive 1.82 million rapid tests from the federal Government in the next few weeks. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will receive the first round of tests, with students, teachers, first responders and others supporting crucial State services receiving the second round.

It is clear that many in our State are struggling to put food on the table as the pandemic shows no signs of receding. Marylanders’ enrollment in federal food assistance programs is the highest in State history, rising sharply since the spring. A recent report shows a 400% increase in SNAP applications across the State, with Baltimore City experiencing a 600% jump.

Churches, civil rights organizations and community groups are teaming with up with the Maryland Department of Health to bring mobile COVID-19 services to Black and Latino neighborhoods in Baltimore. The effort is aimed at educating communities on ways to stay safe during the pandemic, as well as offering masks and testing support.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or phone via 410-841-3600.