Comptroller Peter Franchot Friday slammed Gov. Larry Hogan’s $1.1 billion coronavirus relief package as insufficient and said the legislation is illustrative of a “go-small” mindset.
The Relief Act provides $267 million in direct payments to Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens. It allows families who filed for the earned income tax credit to receive an additional $750 and for individuals to receive $450. It includes $180 million in additional tax relief by eliminating state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits. Also included is $300 million in tax relief for restaurants and small businesses.
The Senate tacked on a $520 million amendment to the legislation and unanimously passed the bill this afternoon. The House of Delegates held its first hearing on the measure on Thursday afternoon in the Economic Matters Committee.
“The relief that is articulated in the governor’s relief plan is the opposite of go-big. It’s go-small,” Franchot told MarylandReporter.com. “So we have a $300 check for one group of people. And we have a $500 check for some other people.”
Franchot, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2022, added: “These are individuals that are facing financial annihilation. They have accumulated thousands of dollars in unpaid bills through no fault of their own over the past 10 months. And we are sending them, maybe-a check for $300 or a check or a check for $500. It’s go-small. Go tiny.”
Franchot reiterated his support for a one-time $2,000 stimulus payment to struggling Marylanders.
Franchot emphasized that the need for additional stimulus relief is urgent.
“What is needed right now is survival checks. Not just to these immigrant families. Not just to low-wage earning individuals with families in Maryland. But also, I am asking for $250 million in immediate cash payments to small businesses. It’s the immediacy, which is so important… the key is they have to go out right now. They can’t be allocated to a state agency.”
Franchot also criticized the administration’s vaccine rollout plan, which was recently ranked 41 out 50 among states in terms of distribution as well as the state’s handling of problems related to its unemployment insurance system.
“The unemployment is a debacle. The vaccine…there are millions of Marylanders as we speak that think the vaccine rollout is a debacle. Our citizens are speaking….The people that are getting vaccines are the rich people that were able to navigate this crazy system of sitting on the computer for hours and hours of trying to get an appointment.”
Franchot said the Relief Act and the vaccine and unemployment system problems are products of “wishful thinking” and “basic bad execution.”
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, pushed back against Franchot’s comments, accusing the comptroller of playing partisan politics.
“Yes. It is sad to see Candidate Franchot become part of the Annapolis machine he used to rail against and spend his days slinging partisan hash.”
Ricci noted that the Relief Act passed the Senate today after having been introduced just two weeks ago.
Ricci said Maryland is making progress on the vaccine front, noting that “more than half a million Marylanders have gotten vaccines” and that “more than 75% of first doses received have been administered.”
The state is currently in Phase 1C of the vaccination process, which prioritizes Marylanders ages 65-74, some essential workers, and those who have certain immunocompromised conditions such as cancer or diabetes.