July 9, 2021
This Fourth of July reinforced the slow return to normalcy. My family took part in the Federal Hill parade and joined many of you to watch the lighting of the new Domino Sugar Sign, an important cultural symbol of our City that has illuminated Baltimore’s skyline for almost 70 years. The iconic sign was dismantled this spring and replaced with a replica that incorporates LED lights to mimic the neon glow of the original. The “new” sign will save energy and eliminate tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The rework was done with a deep respect for the visual importance of its presence over our City while also responding to the environmental needs of the future. 

I can’t help but see the resurrection of this iconic image as a metaphor for Maryland’s perseverance and steadfastness during this pandemic year. We have reconfigured ourselves, rebuilt, recreated, and rethought elemental systems to respond to this unprecedented challenge. We are different, stronger, and more resilient as a result. But our work is not done. We must address the long-term human and financial consequences of the past year while understanding that our fight against COVID-19 is far from over. 

Of the nearly 100 people who died of the coronavirus last month in Maryland, all were unvaccinated, and the overwhelming majority of newly infected people and those hospitalized in the State had not received a vaccine. The data from June demonstrates just how safe and effective the vaccines are in our fight against COVID-19. As the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country, and in Maryland, I encourage anyone who has not yet received the full course of the coronavirus vaccine to do so as soon as possible.
Unemployment Insurance Dispute in Court
The legal battle over Governor Hogan’s decision to cut-off federal unemployment benefits to over 100,000 Marylanders rages on. Last Saturday, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge issued a 10 day temporary restraining order after 2 lawsuits were filed by groups representing the State’s unemployed residents, ruling that people on unemployment would suffer irreparable harm if these benefits ended. I was proud to file an affidavit with the plaintiffs in support of their case and to fight for the General Assembly's work to improve UI access in Maryland this past Session.
Since Attorney General Frosh has refused to defend the Governor’s harmful course of action, the State has hired a private law firm to fight the order, which has since failed four times to overturn the Circuit Court of Baltimore City’s decision. As I have said repeatedly, I strongly encourage the Governor to change course and pursue incentive based programs that help small businesses attract employees without causing immeasurable harm to over 100,000 Marylanders.
The case was postponed today and will once again be heard in court on Monday as the restraining order’s expiration date approaches. I sincerely hope a temporary injunction will be granted and we can focus State resources on supporting Maryland’s residents and small businesses in a way that doesn’t remove over $1 billion in federal aid from our local economies.
Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission Announced
To ensure a fair and impartial process, Karl Aro, a nonpartisan non-legislator, will chair the LRAC. Mr. Aro is the former executive director of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services with extensive experience in previous redistricting cycles. The remaining six members of the LRAC reflect the composition of the MGA, as elected and entrusted by Marylanders.
Over the next few months, the LRAC will host a series of public hearings in every region of the State, including 10 in-person town hall meetings and 2 virtual statewide meetings, to ensure MGA’s map is reflective of our residents’ values.
Eviction Protections to Expire on August 15
Maryland’s eviction protections are set to expire August 15th, two weeks after the federal moratorium ends. I applaud Senator Will Smith for calling for an extension of Governor Hogan’s deadline for those unable to pay rent due to the pandemic. As of May, almost 147,000 households in our State were behind on rent. Ending these critical protections will harm those who were most vulnerable to the economic ravages of the pandemic.
Advocacy organizations are also calling for an extension of the deadline, stressing that the cut-off date does not provide enough time for tenants to pay back rent, especially given the chaos and inconsistencies of the Unemployment Insurance system that many Marylanders have been forced to rely on.
We know that the economy does not operate by an on/off switch, and it will take time for industries uniquely impacted by COVID-19 to fully rebound. That’s why the General Assembly passed a critical bill in the 2021 Session to provide low-income tenants with access to counsel in eviction cases.
Remembering Kenyell "Benny" Wilson
On Monday, I attended a vigil for Kenyell "Benny" Wilson, a Safe Streets Cherry Hill violence interrupter, who was tragically shot and killed on July 1st. Benny was a victim of the very violence he worked to prevent. Just a few day after the vibrant Cherry Hill community celebrated a year without a homicide thanks to the incredible work of Safe Streets and so many partners in their efforts, countless community members turned out to mourn Benny’s passing.
I know one thing for sure, despite their brother's murder, the Safe Streets teams were back on the street the next day, working to prevent another family from having to experience the pain that Benny's family felt that night and continue to feel. Because that's what they do. They will continue to do the same work that Benny dedicated his life to - stopping the violence.
Calling for Pro Bono Pandemic Help
I applaud Attorney General Brian Frosh and the COVID-19 Access to Justice Task Force for urging Maryland attorneys to provide pro bono services in anticipation of a wave of civil cases arising from the pandemic.
The “Call to Action” was a key recommendation of the Task Force aimed at protecting the State’s most vulnerable, specifically people of color, the disabled, domestic violence survivors, and others who have been disparately impacted by the pandemic. Legal representation profoundly impacts the outcome for residents who often don’t understand the system or their rights and I hope all Maryland attorneys will offer their services to fellow Marylanders in need. 
"We Got You" Job Fair and Reentry Resource Fair on July 15
There are two upcoming events on July 15th that I hope you will help share. Both events run from 10am-2pm.

First is the "We Got You: Recovery & Empowering Baltimore" Job Fair hosted by Enterprise Community Development. It is a free event open to the public taking place at the Cherrydale Apartments Courtyard (1118 Cherry Hill Road, Baltimore, MD 21225). Attendees are encouraged to bring resumes & wear professional attire. 

Professional development services offered include: resume reviews, mock interviews, personal brand building, expungement, and business styling from Sharp Dressed Man.  Participating employers include: Baltimore City Department of Transportation, Baltimore City Mayor's Office of Employment Development, NCIA - National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, Goode Companies Inc, and Baltimore City Community College.

Second is a One Stop Reentry Resource Fair hosted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office, and Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.

The Reentry Resource Fair is a free event open to the public taking place at the War Memorial (101 N Gay St, Baltimore, MD 21202). Organizations will be on site to provide services around employment opportunities, transitional housing, GED and college classes, child support, legal assistance, and more.
More News
This week, Governor Hogan announced a new program to encourage Maryland teens to get vaccinated. “VaxU” will provide $50,000 college scholarships to twenty lucky vaccinated kids between the ages of 12 and 17. Two random drawings will be held each week until Labor Day. The money will be deposited in a Maryland529 account.
Senator Doug J.J. Peters will be leaving the Senate next month after more than two decades of serving Prince George’s County and the entire State in the General Assembly. As Chair of the Capital Budget Subcommittee, Doug worked tirelessly to ensure that stimulus funds coming into the State were strategically provided to every jurisdiction for shovel-ready projects to help Maryland build back at a rapid pace. I wish him luck in his new position on the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with the new State Superintendent of Schools, Mohammed Choudhury, to welcome him and discuss the ten-year journey ahead to implement the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. We need a transformational leader at the helm of MSDE, and I am hopeful we have found that in Superintendent Choudhury. His experience advancing educational equity and school integration efforts is the type of innovation that Maryland’s students deserve.
The Downtown Business District will see the largest influx of jobs in its history, thanks to $50 million in funding approved last Session by the General Assembly. Over 3,000 State employees from the current State Center complex will move to new offices in Baltimore by the end of 2022. 
If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact my office via email, bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or by phone, 410-841-3600.