Senate Democratic leaders Wednesday unveiled a $520 million coronavirus fiscal relief package aimed at helping both the state’s small businesses and its most vulnerable communities survive the pandemic.
The legislation, the Recovery Now Amendment, is being introduced as an amendment to the Hogan administration’s $1 billion Relief Act. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held its first hearing on the Relief Act on Tuesday afternoon.
“We know that this crisis has not been felt equally. An equitable recovery is essential. We know that there must be more done immediately,” Senate President Bill Ferguson said at a virtual news conference.
Ferguson said the legislation will help Marylanders who have not yet been able to access existing support services.
“This will provide a bridge to help those individuals survive this emergency.”
Ferguson estimated that the legislation will help provide assistance to 192,000 Marylanders and about 20,000 of the state’s small businesses and non-profit organizations.
Senate Budget and Taxation Chair Guy Guzzone said a large sum of the money to pay for the legislation will come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
“We are in a position over two budget years, 2021-22, to cash flow them in different ways. And in that process, we will be able to generate that money for immediate relief. This is largely possible right now because of actions the Biden administration has already taken…the biggest of one those has to do with the Rainy Day Fund. At the end of the day in 2020, with that budget, we will be in a position also to maintain that at 5%.”
Sen. Melony Griffith (Prince George’s) emphasized that small businesses are struggling right now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really damaged our small and local businesses, which are the cornerstones of our communities. And it has been really hard to watch business owners make difficult decisions like whether or not to lay off employees or to close temporarily or even permanently.”
The legislation’s business assistance provision provides a total of $125 million. That includes $40 million in emergency grants and loans, $26 million in relief for restaurants, and $10 million in relief for hotels and the hospitality industry.
Other provisions in the legislation include $10 million for food banks, $9 million for energy assistance, $40 million for non-profit organizations, $63 million for transportation assistance, $45 million for health assistance, $28 million for housing assistance, $116 million for education assistance, and $44 million for unemployment insurance assistance. The unemployment insurance assistance provision provides a one-time $1,000 payment for individuals whose claims have been suspended. That is said to include about 39,000 Marylanders.
Ferguson implored action on the legislation.
“This is the immediate relief that Marylanders need. We agree with the governor with the Relief Act that he has put forward. And these additions are the targeted supports that we know are going to be most important to help Marylanders and small businesses make it through this crisis.”