Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday announced he was proposing the Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF) Act to provide as much as an estimated $1 billion in pandemic assistance to residents and businesses.
According to a press release, the legislation would, among other provisions:
- Provide up to $750 for families and $450 for individuals who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit (approximately 400,000 people)
- Repeal all state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits, and
- Provide sales tax credits up to $3,000/month for four months for small businesses.
“We will be introducing the RELIEF Act of 2021 as emergency legislation on day one,” the governor said in the announcement. “We will ask both houses of the legislature to act on it immediately, so that I can immediately sign it into law, and these relief measures can take effect.”
The day before the announcement, a group called Maryland United for COVID Relief NOW held a virtual rally to urge the governor to release money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund (estimated at $1.5 billion) for assistance to businesses and residents.
Speakers included County Council President Tom Hucker (D-District 5), Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart (D), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).
They were joined by representatives of 24 Maryland jurisdictions, the faith community, business and community organizations, including a number of well-known local residents.
Following Hogan’s announcement, Franchot issued a statement that read, in part, “Maryland families need help now, but instead the governor is passing the buck to the legislature. The governor knows that he has the power to authorize direct cash payments to those in crisis right now. He’s already tapped into the Rainy Day Fund to help small businesses and now he needs to help families survive.”
Hucker had a similar reaction as he called for relief from the fund.
“While the proposed relief package will provide some assistance to our most vulnerable residents, it does not provide broad, immediate relief to families and small businesses. It instead passes responsibility to the General Assembly, slowing the process of getting immediate relief to Maryland families in need and small businesses facing permanent closure,” he said in an emailed statement.
“We cannot and must not wait to relieve the suffering and assist the small businesses that will close this week. This proposal is a step in the right direction, but it is insufficient and does not rise to meet the immense suffering felt by our neighbors across the state,” Hucker added.
The COVID relief group has launched a petition urging the governor to release funding now. As of this writing, nearly 7,000 people had signed the request.