March 12, 2021
The warmer weather and sunshine this week remind me just how far we’ve come in a short period of time. Indeed, these small signs of spring at the end of what has felt like an exceptionally long and dark winter are daily joys that I do not take for granted. 

As I reflect on the one year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a mixture of emotions. I am grateful for our State’s healthcare workers and every individual who is working on the frontline to keep Marylanders healthy and to keep our State operating. I grieve for what we have lost this year - especially for each person who has lost a spouse, child, parent, or friend due to COVID-19. Yet, I also feel anticipation for when our country and State can return to “normal”, whatever that may look like. I’m sure many of you might be experiencing this breadth of emotions, and I hope you know that you are not alone in that. 

Above all, I am deeply hopeful for what lies ahead of us this year. As President Biden said in his address yesterday evening, “We are bound together by the loss and the pain of the days that have gone by…[and] we are also bound together by the hope and the possibilities in the days in front of us.” I am confident that continuing to take steps such as wearing masks and social distancing will only usher in the end of this pandemic more quickly.
Recovery Now Fund Launches
Three weeks into the passage of the historic Maryland RELIEF Act of 2021 incorporating the Maryland General Assembly’s Recovery Now package, I want to give a few highlights of how the Recovery Now Fund is already impacting Marylanders:

  • 27,181 Marylanders whose unemployment claims have been stuck in adjudication for at least 30 days received $1,000 payments;
  • Disparity Grant Payments totaling $5 million have been processed for Prince George’s, Wicomico, and Dorchester counties, and should be received in the next few days;
  • Grant applications have been opened to arts-based organizations and community colleges; and  
  • Grant allocation plans are being developed for restaurants, entertainment venues, emergency housing, and nonprofits.

This progress is great news for Maryland’s families and businesses, and the State is continuing to ramp up access to funds for individuals, families, and different sectors of our economy in the coming weeks. I will be sure to keep you all updated as those programs come online and applications to obtain those funds are launched.
American Rescue Plan Signed Into Law
Yesterday afternoon, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, into law. The bill provides aid to states for vaccine distribution and school reopening, support for small businesses and restaurants, expanded child tax and Earned Income Tax Credits, extended unemployment benefits, and $1,400 direct stimulus payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually. 

Specifically, Maryland is slated to receive about $4 billion in aid, with Baltimore City getting about $670 million in direct support. This unprecedented level of aid will support Maryland’s most vulnerable families, bring thousands of children out of poverty, bolster our State’s local and small businesses, allow us to safely reopen schools, and extend unemployment benefits to individuals whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic. The funding will also support our State and City governments, which have been deeply strained by the pandemic. I am thankful to the members of Congress, particularly to our Maryland delegation of Senators and Representatives, who have advocated for Marylanders to get the support that they urgently need.
Update on COVID-19 Restrictions
On Tuesday, Governor Hogan issued an Executive Order regarding statewide COVID-19 restrictions that will take effect at 5 p.m. today. Several major restrictions have been loosened, with indoor and outdoor dining, retail businesses, fitness centers, and houses of worship now able to operate at 100% without capacity limits, and large venues such as concert halls and sports stadiums able to operate at 50% capacity.

Although the Governor is relaxing restrictions per statewide mandate, local governments may continue to issue more stringent guidance to reflect public health metrics in each jurisdiction. Since the Governor's announcement, there has been some confusion from local county executives and the Mayor as to the impact of the new Executive Order on local restrictions to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks. After I inquired about that local authority with Attorney General Brian Frosh, we have since learned that Mayor Scott and county executives will retain their local authority.

Ultimately, Marylanders will only increase their economic engagement as they feel safe to do so. I support Mayor Scott’s decision to chart a slightly more restrained course than Governor Hogan’s new Executive Order. Baltimore City has continued to take a measured, data-driven approach to reopening and I believe we must do everything possible to not jeopardize progress as health metrics continue to improve and vaccine distribution scales up.

Most importantly, I want to emphasize that the statewide mask mandate and requirements on social distancing are still in place. We have made significant strides in recent weeks. We are so close to the end of this pandemic and we cannot afford to let up too quickly and steal defeat from the jaws of victory. All Marylanders must continue to do their part until we reach a critical mass of herd immunity through vaccination, and the General Assembly will do everything we can to help with navigating the end stages of this crisis.
Vaccine Update
As nearly 11% of Marylanders are fully vaccinated, we are seeing steps of progress in our State’s vaccination campaign. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit the Baltimore Convention Center’s Field Hospital and mass vaccination site. I was impressed with how the site was run with a core focus on safety, efficiency, and organization. I am thankful to the hard-working and resilient Marylanders working at the Convention Center, as well as the other state-run mass vaccination sites, to get shots into the arms of our State’s residents. 

As vaccine supply ramps up in the near future, it is critical that Maryland’s infrastructure keeps pace to efficiently administer those vaccines. Additional mass vaccination sites coming online this week and next are positive steps that would not have happened without the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup’s advocacy back in January for Maryland to move to a more centralized model. Still, it is vital that the statewide vaccine sign up phone number and soon-to-launch website provide access points to all providers, and not just mass vaccination sites. 

Further, equitable access continues to be a priority and a challenge. New data from a Goucher College poll showed that Black and white Marylanders held very similar attitudes in their willingness to get vaccinated (62% and 68%, respectively). This poll affirms what the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup has repeatedly stated: the inequitable vaccine distribution in Maryland cannot be blamed on vaccine hesitancy. Maryland must move towards a model with easier access, including vaccination clinics with hours that accommodate our essential frontline workers’ schedules.
More News
Today, the Maryland Senate passed the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2021, the largest and most comprehensive environmental legislation to ever pass the Senate. I am proud of the work that the Senate did to ensure that Maryland will be a national leader in addressing climate change and building a State that prioritizes environmental justice. The bill is now moving to the House of Delegates for consideration. 

The Comptroller announced that the state income tax filing deadline will be extended by three months until July 15, 2021. No interest or penalties will be assessed if returns are filed and taxes owed are paid by the new deadline.

New revenue estimates show a projected $424 million increase in FY21 and a $473 million increase in FY22, a hopeful indicator of Maryland’s economic recovery. The economic pain caused by COVID-19 has been wildly uneven in our State, but I am grateful that our overall economic health is much better than anticipated.

Baltimore City Public Schools announced that in-person learning will be an option for all grade levels by April 19, with middle school and pre-kindergarten students returning on April 12, and 10th and 11th graders returning on April 19. 
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email,, or by phone, 410-841-3600.