Brooke’s Weekly COVID Brief

This is a weekly general post with resources and information. To have this emailed to you every Monday, sign up HERE. For business specific updates, sign up here or check my website here. This blog post is updated every week.

Friends and Neighbors, 

I hope that this email finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. My family is doing as well as can be – my son Teddy starts online learning this week through Baltimore City Public Schools and my daughter continues to climb out of her crib and refuse to nap! Last week I participated in a local blood drive – you can find one near you by going to redcrossblood.org. I spent much of this weekend reading up about the implementation of the federal CARES Act, emailing with our federal electeds and SBA officials, learning about the Governor’s new executive orders (see below) and trying to ensure I can be a good resource for all of you and all the businesses I represent. 

Since you heard from me last week, I have been continuing crisis coordination and relief work: connecting people to resources, informing hurting workers and business owners about relief programs, staying updated on the latest news about Baltimore and City Schools, researching innovative ideas being used by other areas around the country – and participating in lots of video conference calls! I’m also pleased to be hosting two webinars this week – TODAY and WEDNESDAY!

Join me today at 2:00 p.m. to speak with two specialists in housing, social benefits and tax prep: RSVP HERE to get the Zoom Link and then call in or video in at 2:00 p.m. 

Join me on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. to hear from Congressman John Sarbanes an overview of the Federal response to COVID-19, including the CARES Act, and talk about additional response efforts to provide economic relief to Marylanders and keep our communities safe. RSVP HERE. 

Please share this email and encourage people to sign up to receive it if they don’t. Just share THIS LINK to sign up. 

If you’re looking for local farm food options, the Maryland Farmers Market Association has put together this great information.

Again, feel free to drop me a line to let me know how you’re doing, what ideas you have to weather this storm, and what needs you see or that you have. My legislative director, Dani, and I continue to check our office phone (410-841-3319) and email regularly. 

*For COVID-19 information in other languages, click here*

COVID-19 LATEST NEWS

Federal COVID-19 Update: Last weekend, the President signed the CARES Act – a $2 trillion stimulus bill focused on providing relief to low and middle-income Americans, individuals out of work, small businesses, and nonprofits. This brings the count to three new federal laws to provide economic relief related to COVID-19:

  1. H.R.748: (CARES) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – Enacted March 27, 2020.  Includes direct payments to Americans, an aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance, billions of dollars in aid to large and small businesses, and a new wave of significant funding for the healthcare industry
  2. H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act — Enacted March 18, 2020. Guaranteed free coronavirus testing, established paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded food security initiatives, and increased federal Medicaid funding.
  3. H.R. 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 — Enacted March 4, 2020. Provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak related to developing a vaccine, medical supplies, grants for public health agencies, small business loans, and assistance for health systems in other countries. Allowed for temporarily waiving Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services.

The latest law – the CARES Act – will provide about $4 billion in aid to Maryland, including millions of dollars for FEMA, SNAP, local school districts, local nutrition programs and childcare. It will support small businesses and nonprofits through three main programs…You can learn more about each program and apply for them by clicking “learn more”:

  1. Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Learn more.
  2. Economic Injury Disaster Grant (EIDG) – accessible at the end of the loan application.
  3. Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL). Learn more.

Maryland COVID-19 Update

Governor Hogan announced several new Executive Orders last week, including two in the last several days. One concerns nursing homes and can be found here (https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/04.05.2020-MDH-ORDER-NURSING-HOME-MATTERS.pdf). It requires stricter clothing guidelines and PPE usage as well as expedited testing. The Governor also issued an order prohibiting repossessions of any automobile, truck, or chattel home, (2) prohibiting residential foreclosures, and (3) prohibiting residential, commercial, or industrial convictions. You can find that full Executive Order here (https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Evictions-Repossessions-Foreclosure-AMENDED-4.3.20.pdf). 

To see a list of all of the Governor’s recent Executive Orders, including interpretive guidance on each one click here. This week, the state also launched several drive-through testing sites (appointments still required) and surge temporary medical facilities, including one at the Baltimore Convention Center. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our office – brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319.

BALTIMORE CITY & SCHOOLS UPDATE
Please be sure to bookmark the new Baltimore City’s website for everything you need to know about COVID-19 and how it’s impacting city services: https://coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/

On Friday, the Mayor announced the start of construction for a new COVID-19 drive through site that will be located in the Pimlico Race Course Parking lot and creation of a $50,000 grant fund to assist Baltimore City Manufacturers with start-up costs to incentive the production of personal protective equipment. To learn more, click here.


Baltimore City Schools

Distance Learning in City Schools starts today! The hub for this initiative is www.baltimorecityschools.org/distance-learning (page launches on 3/6). Beginning that day, students and families will have access to learning experiences in the following ways:

Lessons on television – Students will be able to access daily reading, math, science, and art lessons on City Schools TV (Comcast 77) and the city’s CharmTV (Comcast 25 and 1025). Additionally, CharmTV will offer lessons via streaming video at http://www.charmtvbaltimore.com. A schedule of lessons will be available on the district’s Distance Learning webpage.

Distance Learning Packets – Each week, a new set of distance learning packets will be available with lessons for students via download from the Distance Learning Webpage. Additionally, every Monday during the closure period, students will be able to pick up work packets at the district’s 18 meal sites.

Teacher Collaboration – Two ways teachers will work with students are via Blackboard Collaborate and Google Classroom.  Blackboard Collaborate will be used to give live instruction, and Google Classroom will host class assignments and resources. Teachers will send a link to students to invite them to Blackboard Collaborate.

For help with homework and class assignments and questions about online learning, please call City Schools’ Homework and Technology Help Desk at 443-984-2001. The hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday.

A LITTLE FUN

First and foremost: go easy on yourself. Your friends may be posting clothing they have created from their newfound sewing or knitting obsession and your sibling may be training for a marathon, but each of us is experiencing this unique and challenging time differently. So, give yourself a break. That said, here are a few fun things online… 

Go on a trip without leaving your home! This list has dozens of online experiences from all over the world.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/micheleherrmann/2020/03/29/pay-a-virtual-visit-to-these-locations-right-from-your-screen/?source=bloomberg#59055a59187e

Preservation Maryland – browse archived images here.

Baltimore Magazine has put together some entertaining kids at-home activities as well. https://www.baltimoremagazine.com/section/educationfamily/entertain-your-kids-with-these-at-home-learning-activities

RESOURCES FOR YOU

Feeling stressed out and anxious? Now more than ever it is important that we and everyone makes an effort to take care of themselves including efforts to relax and decompress. Here are some helpful links:

  1. https://www.virusanxiety.com/ 
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-practicing-wellness-while-you-stay-at-home

Need help applying for unemployment? The Department of Labor extended its hours on Wednesday and is now open 7am-6pm on Monday – Friday (410-949-0022). To manage the volume of calls, they ask that if your last name starts with A – F, file your claim on Monday; if your last name starts with G – N, file your claim on Tuesday; if your last name starts with O – Z, file your claim on Wednesday. Claim filing is open to all last names by phone on Thursday and Friday and online Thursday through Sunday. Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim. You can also file a claim online at https://secure-2.dllr.state.md.us/NetClaims/Welcome.aspx. For a step-by-step guide on how to apply click HERE.

Looking for a job? The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development can help with finding a job! Several companies are hiring: https://moed.baltimorecity.gov/job-seekers/now-hiring.

Need help finding food now? Food is available at dozens of sites across the city: https://coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/food-distribution-sites

Need help with public benefits?

  • SNAP application assistance is provided by Maryland Hunger Solutions (866-821-5552)
  • Legal help with terminations or determinations for SNAP, TCA, or TDAP is provided by the Homeless Persons Representation Project (410-364-4198)

Having a legal issue related to eviction/ landlords, utilities, unemployment, immigration, or domestic violence? The Maryland Access to Justice Commission is here to help with civil legal issues: https://www.mdaccesstojustice.org/covid-19/.

Questions about workers’ rights and COVID? The Public Justice Center has an awesome FAQ page and great explainers to help you understand your rights: http://www.publicjustice.org/en/legal_help/workers-rights-and-covid-19/

Are you from the hospitality industry and looking for resources? Check out the new website of the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund. On this site you can learn more about their relief fund and resources for workers and owners in the restaurant world. The website is in Spanish and English.

Need health insurance? Maryland Health Connection’s emergency Special Enrollment Period for uninsured Marylanders is open now through April 15, 2020. If you never had health insurance or lost your health insurance, now is your chance to get covered for 2020! The online application is available daily at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov from 6 am to 11 pm, or call 855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm to apply by telephone. Visit www.marylandcares.org for free help with an enrollment dispute.

Need help with taxes? Tax prep assistance is provided for free by the Maryland Cash Campaign: http://cashmd.org/ and https://www.mdcashacademy.org/

Need day care? Childcare for Essential Personnel: Parents who are still required to go to work can receive support and care for their children by calling 1-877-261-0060, or visiting http://www.marylandfamilynetwork.org/essentialpersonnel.

Confused about the Governor’s stay at home directive? The Sun released a helpful, entertaining Q&A. Click here.

Haven’t completed your Census Questionnaire yet? Do it today at www.my2020census.gov! It takes 5-10 minutes.

Experiencing health issues and need to talk to a healthcare provider for advice or a referral?

  • Esperanza Center’s Health Hotline for bilingual services (M-F, 9AM-5PM) at 667-600-2314
  • University of Maryland Medical System free call line: open to the public 24/7 to answer questions related to COVID-19. Calls will be answered and routed by an Operator. A Registered Nurse will then connect with callers to answer their questions The call line number is 1-888-713-0711.For more information, visit https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/nurse-call-line 

Want more information about COVID-19 from medical professionals?

The Healthy Community Partnership and Medicine for the Greater Good at Johns Hopkins Bayview host a coronavirus (COVID-19) update call on Mondays at 3:00 p.m. and Fridays at 11:00 a.m. The dial-in information is: Toll-free number: (888) 651-5908; Participant code: 3569812. There is also a daily podcast, Public Health On Call, which includes interviews about the coronavirus. Daily and past podcasts can be found at http://bit.ly/publichealthoncall

Want to volunteer in a way that is safe and complies with the Governor’s stay at home order?

  • Complete a volunteer application and sign up for a shift here. There are a wide variety of organizations in need of diverse skill sets! For a full list of current volunteer opportunities, click here
  • Blood donations are critically needed and are considered an essential activity – make an appointment at www.redcrossblood.org.

Finding that essential household items have jumped up in price?

Price gouging of important resources is illegal! Report any personal experiences by contact the Attorney General’s Office at 410-528-8662, or email consumer@oag.state.md.us. 

Worried about a senior who might be lonely?

There’s a new program that organizes friendly phone calls to elderly neighbors. If you’d like to get involved or sign someone up, visit: BaltimoreNeighborsNetwork.org.

Worried about someone who may be experiencing domestic violence?

Most domestic violence and sexual assault services providers are still open, including the SAFE & DV program at BGMC, House of Ruth, and others. Learn more here: https://www.baltimoresun.com/coronavirus/bs-md-domestic-violence-coronavirus-20200326-qa3r334fcba2xcymmjp4q4znim-story.html. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Are you a small business owner or leader of a nonprofit that needs support?

Sign up for my business-focused weekly emails with resources/information here: https://act.myngp.com/Forms/-3341106874043858944 and visit my Business Resources Guide here: http://www.brookelierman.com/2020/03/19/covid-response-business-resources/

Are you an independent artist in need of financial support?

The Maryland State Arts Council just launched an emergency grant for artists, as they do not qualify for some of the state and federal relief programs. Learn more here.

Need help paying for housing?

The following third party organizations in Baltimore City are offering assistance with paying for housing, if needed, during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Franciscan Center: 410-467-5340
  • HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM): 410-649-0529
  • American Legion Department of MD State Headquarters: 410-752-1405, 800-433-3318
  • New Shiloh Baptist Church: 410-523-5306
  • All Saints Church: 410-542-0445
  • Mount Moriah Baptist: 410-945-3575
  • New Creation Christian Church Love Outreach Ministry: 410-488-5653
  • Paul’s Place: 410-625-0775
  • Walbrook Vicinity Churches Assistance Ministry: 410-383-1525
  • Zion Baptist Church: 410-837-4181
  • St. Anthony of Padua: 410-488-9918
  • Mercy Supportive Housing Program: 410-675-2125
  • Salvation Army Family Service Center: 410-783-2920
  • City Temple Outreach: 410-383-8040, 410-462-4800
  • Friendship Outreach Center: 410-444-1595
  • Bon Secours Community Works: 410-362-3808
  • Baltimore City District Court — Eviction Prevention Program: 410-878-8650
  • St Vincent de Paul — The Samaritan Center: 667-600-3700 ext. 1

Additional Recommended Links for Trusted Information

COVID-19 Business Resources

During these unprecedented times, our small businesses are facing unique and incredibly difficult challenges. I am here to advocate for you and do all that I can to support you and your employees. See below for a few quick state and federal updates, as well as a list of resources. You can sign up at this link to get weekly Friday emails.

  • State COVID-19 Update: Governor Hogan announced several new Executive Orders this week including the “stay at home” directive, the temporary closure of all non-essential businesses, and an expansion of telehealth, among others. To see a list of all of the Governor’s recent Executive Orders, including interpretive guidance on each one click here. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our office – brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us or 410-841-3319.
  • Federal COVID-19 Update: See below for more information and links to applications for the federal CARES Act, the $2 trillion bill focused on low and middle-income Americans and businesses (including non-profits, sole proprietors, people in the gig economy, and churches).
  • Your Unique Challenges: You face unique circumstances and in order for me to be the best advocate for you that I can be, I encourage you to email me with feedback on the programs that Maryland has created thus far (see below), and holes in programs or challenges you see. For instance, the assistance programs that Maryland is currently offering do not provide.

Quick Hits

  • NFIB Webinar – How to Apply for a Coronavirus Small Business Loan. Friday, April 3 at 12 pm ET. Register HERE to access a recording of the Webinar once it’s posted.
  • Maryland Nonprofits Webinar – Preparing your SBA Loan Application. Friday, April 3 at 2 pm ET. Click HERE to access a recording of the Webinar once it’s posted.
  • Maryland Nonprofits Webinar – How your nonprofit can utilize the Paycheck Protection Program. Monday, April 6 at 2 pm ET. Register HERE (open to the public).
  • The Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development Webinar – Where is the money. The inside scoop on contracting during COVID-19 and how MBE’s can benefit from the stimulus package. Tuesday, April 7 at 9 am ET. Register HERE.
  • Have you seen the new website for the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund?  Visit this site to learn more about their relief fund and resources for workers and owners in the restaurant world. The website is in Spanish and English.
  • Have you heard of Community Wealth Building? Check out this new resource for loans and grants in partnership with organizations like KIVA, Honeycomb, Wefunder and more. 
  • Please fill out this BDC Survey if you have not already – it will help BDC tailor programs to what you need! http://bit.ly/2wc7hXG

Moving Forward: If you have specials or photos or interesting ideas you’d like me to highlight in my blast emails or in social media, please let me know: brooke@brookelierman.com.

The President signed the CARES Act last weekend, bringing the count to three new federal laws to provide economic relief related to COVID-19:

  • H.R.748: (CARES) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – Enacted March 27, 2020.  Includes direct payments to Americans, an aggressive expansion of unemployment insurance, billions of dollars in aid to large and small businesses, and a new wave of significant funding for the healthcare industry
  • H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act — Enacted March 18, 2020. Guaranteed free coronavirus testing, established paid leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, expanded food security initiatives, and increased federal Medicaid funding.
  • H.R. 6074: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 — Enacted March 4, 2020. Provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak related to developing a vaccine, medical supplies, grants for public health agencies, small business loans, and assistance for health systems in other countries. Allowed for temporarily waiving Medicare restrictions and requirements regarding telehealth services.

The CARES Act will provide about $4 billion in aid to Maryland, including millions of dollars for FEMA, SNAP, local school districts, local nutrition programs and childcare. It will support small businesses and nonprofits through three main programs. All of these programs are now accepting applications! You can learn more about each program and apply for them by clicking “learn more”. There are other helpful links with checklists and guides at the end of this email.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance (EIDL). Learn more. This is a working capital loan, but cannot be used to refinance preexisting debt. First payment on the loan, when approved, will be deferred from a 12-month period. Interest rate fixed at $3.75 and maximum term is 30 years. Sole proprietors and most non-profits are eligible. There is also an advance does not need to be repaid available at the end of the loan application. You can access up to $10,000 immediate payment to be used for payroll and other operating expenses.
  • Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL)Learn more. The applications open today. Can be used for payroll, benefits, utilities, etc. If employees are retained on the payroll, then the loan will be forgiven. Loan payments deferred for 6-months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. A sample application form is available here. Private non-profit organizations and veteran organizations are eligible.

How will these programs work for my small business?

  • For an overview of how programs under the CARES Act will work for small businesses, here’s a helpful Q&A from the Washington Post. Further, check out the recording and slides from NFIB’s webinar on the CARES Act from Monday HERE. They also have an awesome chart with program details on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program Loan (PPPL) which you can access HERE.

How will these programs work for my nonprofit?

  • For an overview of how programs under the CARES Act will work for nonprofits, listen to a recording of a phone call that Senators Van Hollen and Cardin hosted for over 600 nonprofit leaders on Tuesday HERE.

Federal SBA Disaster Assistance Available in Maryland: Small businesses economically impacted by COVID-19 may apply for disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). 

Governor Hogan’s Executive Orders: The Governor’s Executive Orders and legal guidance can all be found here. The legal guidance is helpful for clarifying what is essential v. not and rules for specific industries, like churches. There are also orders regarding price gouging, delivery, child care, and more. 

Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Fund: The state of Maryland has announced a $50 million grant fund to support small businesses and nonprofits during the pandemic. The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Fund offers working capital to assist small businesses in MD who have seen a disruption in their operations due to COVID-19. Grants can be used by businesses for a variety of purposes, including to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, and utility expenses.

COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund (Grant): Businesses in Maryland can also apply for the COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund to implement strategies that help prevent or minimize layoffs due to the pandemic. Businesses with 500 or fewer employees can apply for grants of up to $50,000, which can be used for a variety of purposes, including to cover the cost of purchasing remote access equipment or other strategies to mitigate potential layoffs or closures.

Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Loan Fund: The $75 million loan fund is available to for-profit businesses in MD with fewer than 50 employees. Businesses can apply for loans of up to $50,000 which can be used to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, and utility expenses.

TAX INFORMATION

Business Tax Payments Extension: Businesses in Maryland will be given a 90-day extension for tax payments. No interest or penalty for late payments will be imposed if 2019 tax payments are made by July 15, 2020.

Business Tax Filing Deadline Extension: The Maryland Comptroller’s Office also extended business-related tax filing deadlines to June 1, 2020.

Business Licensing & Permitting Extension: Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order mandating all licenses, permits, and registrations that would expire during the current state of emergency to be extended until at least the 30th day after the state of emergency is lifted.

Department of Commerce COVID Resource Guide: https://businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus

Maryland Retailers Association Guide: https://www.mdra.org/covid-19-resources/

NFIB Resource Guide:

U.S. Department of Labor – guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – information for employers and employees: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/

U.S. Department of Labor – information on Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

Small Business Administration – information on disaster assistance loans: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSBA/bulletins/280d49d

SmallBusiness.com – https://smallbusiness.com/planning/disaster/covid-19-guidance-for-businesses-and-employers-from-the-center-for-disease-control-prevention-2020/

Downtown Partnership of Baltimore resource page:

https://www.godowntownbaltimore.com/events/default.aspx?eid=B06DBD43-3E69-EA11-A2F1-000C2975210C

Baltimore City Small Businesses Hit by COVID-19 Eligible to Apply for Federal Assistance 

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MDBALT/bulletins/2822bde

FAQs for businesses responding to COVID-19 (from business express)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xHkCb2SRj7wekrIyoxnWz8hVomozXQDx5Ny3HFkkhwY/edit

Tax extensions – explainer from Comptroller: https://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/MDCOMP-281eb05?wgt_ref=MDCOMP_WIDGET_C7

Maryland Insurance Administration – has also put together an FAQ addressing insurance-related questions about coronavirus: https://insurance.maryland.gov/Pages/newscenter/NewsDetails.aspx?NR=2020251

2020 End of Session Report

Friends and Neighbors,

To download a PDF of this letter, click here.

For the first time since the Civil War, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned early this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision to adjourn the legislative session did not come lightly. House and Senate leadership coordinated to make a decision that was informed, research-based, and promptly responded to the current public health crisis. Public health research shows that the more steps we can take right now to prevent transmission of the virus, the better off we’ll be. Practicing social distancing now can save lives later.

Despite our early finish, the General Assembly session was incredibly productive. Thanks in part to our new leadership team – Speaker Adrienne Jones and President Bill Ferguson – we moved expeditiously and in coordinated fashion to pass legislation that will help our state move forward. In the pages below, you will find information on legislation that we considered.

It is an incredible honor to serve in the House of Delegates and I continue to champion legislation that reduces barriers and increases opportunities so that every Marylander can reach his/her full potential. You can always get in touch with me at 410-841-3319 and brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. To read more about my work, please sign up for my email updates and visit my blog at www.brookelierman.com. Thank you for being involved!

MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY COVID-19 RESPONSE

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic, and a national emergency has been declared. Governor Hogan and Mayor Young announced that Maryland and Baltimore will operate under states of emergency and will take additional precautionary measures to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. My website has links and information for families, employees, students, small business owners, and more.

COVID-19 Emergency Legislation

The General Assembly and Governor are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat. The General Assembly passed two bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency:

(1) SB190: FY21 State Budget. In our annual budget, we set aside and provided authority to the Governor to use up to $100 million to help respond to the public health threat. We also left a larger-than-normal fund balance because of the likelihood for a large decrease in revenues.

(2) HB1663: COVID–19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020. This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat such as:

  • eliminating co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing and covering the cost of a COVID–19 immunization should it become available
  • waiving certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online
  • allowing the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19
  • preventing retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel, and medicine
  • prohibiting employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19
  • changing the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits

FY2021 OPERATING & CAPITAL BUDGET

Under the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly must pass a balanced budget each year. Maryland has a “strong executive” model: the Governor proposes the initial budget early in session, and theGeneral Assembly can only cut or restrict funds and move money aroundin the operating budget (although we can add to the capital budget). The FY21 operating budget that we passed is balanced and creates a more structurally-balanced budget in future years than we have seen in some time. We worked hard to ensure that we were able to fully fund K-12 education formulas and fully fund the promised increases in salary to all behavioral health and disabilities service providers. We also fully funded our community colleges and provided our state share of funding for the Howard Street Tunnel.

Fast Fact: Maryland’s Governor has the strongest constitutional budget authority of any governor in the nation. This year you will have the opportunity to vote on whether you think (like I do!) that our General Assembly should be able to amend the operating budget like we can with the capital budget – and like nearly every other state legislature can.

FY21 Capital Budget

Capital Budget – Team 46 worked hard this year to secure & safeguard funding for many organizations & projects around our district, including…

Creative Alliance, The Well/Hon’s Honey, Living Classrooms Foundation, Middle Branch Park, Rash Field, Hands on Patterson Park Public, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery, Chesapeake Shakespeare Theater, South Baltimore Land Trust, The Cherry Hill CDC, Life Ministries Food Pantry, Ronald McDonald House, the National Aquarium …. And $12m for the Baltimore Regional Neighborhoods Initiative at DHCD that provides funding for community development corporations for capital projects around Baltimore

EDUCATION

More people emailed me about the education reform and funding bill The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (HB1300/SB1000) than about any other single piece of legislation. After 3 years of meetings by the Kirwan Commission, this year we introduced and eventually passed landmark legislation that will change public education in Maryland over the next decade. Today, fewer than 40% of graduating high school students are college and career ready. Moreover, our current school funding formula is regressive – poorer school districts receive less funding and we have large achievement gaps based on socioeconomic status, race, disability, English language proficiency, and at-risk designation. And, average salaries for teachers are 25% below comparable professions and nearly half of teachers leave the profession after two years. If we don’t provide children a great education now, we will be paying higher costs in health care, public safety, and benefits generations to come. The Blueprint is a transformational plan that makes 5 key investments, implemented over 10 years:

  • Expanding full-day prekindergarten for low-income 3 and 4 year olds and providing more family support centers in high-poverty areas
  • Hiring and keeping high-quality, diverse teachers by paying teachers a salary comparable to other fields, providing more rigorous teacher preparation programs and implementing career ladders to provide more opportunities for career advancement
  • Raising the standards for college and career readiness so students can compete with their international peers
  • Providing more resources for the students who need them most
  • Implementing an accountability board to monitor progress and ensure tax-payer funds are being used effectively

The Blueprint isn’t just good for public schools, it’s a vital investment in Maryland’s economic future. It will help attract new businesses and entrepreneurs as our state adapts to an economy increasingly rooted in technological innovation. The Blueprint relies on strong accountability measures to ensure that new funding is spent how it should be, including the creation of a new oversight body: the Office of the Inspector General for Education.

Of equal importance, I was thrilled to support the Built to Learn Act (HB1/SB1). This legislation will invest additional capital funding in our school buildings, including $450 million for Baltimore City Public Schools. HB1 prioritizes schools with the oldest buildings in the system, those with significant facility deficiencies, schools with high concentrations of students eligible for free and reduced price meals, and schools with a high number of relocatable classrooms.

In the world of higher education, we made historic progress by passing HB1260/SB1043 which finally requires the state to compensate HBCUs for over a decade of damaging program duplication that the state allowed to go on even though it undermined and hurt enrollment at HBCUs. We also took strides to support our student athletes in higher education. I am excited about the potential of a bill that I sponsored this year to support our college student athletes – the Jordan McNair Safe and Fair Play Act (HB533/SB518). This bipartisan bill would allow student athletes the right to use their own name, image, or likeness to earn money (something the NCAA doesn’t allow), and would create a Commission to review rules and ensure our student athletes are healthy and safe. We have many great supporters, including the McNair family, College Park’s student government, the NFL Players Association, former college athletes, sports law professors and more! Although the bill did not pass this year, I will continue to champion this cause because I believe that many of our college athletes are being exploited and are being stripped of their basic human rights to participate in the economy.

I also heard from many of you about the various proposals in the General Assembly to increase revenue. For many years, revenue projections have demonstrated that our state sales tax is underperforming, largely because people buy fewer goods now and spend more money on services, including online services. Many of you wrote in with concerns about the large proposed sales tax bill (HB1628). I shared your concerns about its breadth and the fact that it may have placed many of our professionals at a disadvantage with other states. That bill did not pass. Rather, we looked at ways to modernize our tax code without putting additional burdens on working families. HB932 modernizes Maryland’s tax code. Today, if you buy a CD at Best Buy, you pay sales tax – if you download the music on iTunes, you do not. This bill ensures equity across platforms and evens the playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses and online outlets. It brings us in line with 28 other states with the same exact revenue structure and will help fund public education. We also passed HB732 to increase the existing excise tax on cigarettes by an additional $1.75 and impose an excise tax on electronic smoking and vaping, something 21 other states and D.C. have already done. It also sets up Maryland to be the first state in the country to apply a gross receipts tax to large advertising buys. Companies such as Facebook will now be required to pay a tax based on the overall revenue of their online ads. Everyone can relate to constantly being buried by ads online, and this bill will ensure companies who use your personal information to make targeted ads help give back to our schools.

PUBLIC SAFETY

The violence in Baltimore City is absolutely unacceptable, and many of you wrote in to me to ask what the state plans to do to help create a safer city. The loss of life and ongoing crime is tragic and must end. I worked every day this session on legislation to create safer communities in Baltimore and around Maryland.

Two years ago, I championed and passed Maryland’s first program to prevent gun violence using evidence-based efforts. Although the Governor funded the program during its first year, he zeroed it out in FY20. Therefore, this year, I sponsored HB822/SB708, a bill to mandate a minimum of $10 million in funding for and to make several alterations to the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (MD VIPP) which funds local efforts around the state.

MD VIPP is the state’s only program designed to fund a variety of evidence-based violence prevention programs like Safe Streets, Roca, and hospital-based violence intervention programs. The Police Commissioner agrees that these programs are a fundamental piece to creating a safer Baltimore – the police can do enforcement but they cannot do the prevention and intervention that is also needed. Programs like these have been credited with violence reduction in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, and more. New York, which has long provided stable funding to such programs, has seen a nearly 40% reduction in its gun homicide levels since 2010. I am thrilled that we were able to pass this legislation on the last day of session. 

We also passed a number of other important public safety bills, including:

Strengthening Witness Intimidation Laws (HB40). This legislation lowers the standard of proof from clear and convincing to preponderance of the evidence in criminal cases when it’s believed there has been witness intimidation. This gives prosecutors another tool in the toolbox when dealing with organized crime or gun cases where members of the community can be afraid to come forward and help with a case.

Auditing and Tracking Gun Crimes (HB1629). This bill requires a statewide audit of gun crimes to pinpoint where the breakdown exists in the criminal justice system, from 911 call to disposition. The better we can track this information the better law enforcement will have the ability to allocate resources where communities need them.

The PROTECT Act (HB1408/SB929). The PROTECT Program is established to maximize the use of State, local, and community resources to combat neighborhood decline in Baltimore City and throughout the State, support comprehensive strategies to reduce crime and fear in those communities, and ensure that Baltimore City Police Department sworn officers are utilized in direct public safety roles. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention will select 10 high-crime micro-zones within the State and create, as a civilian position, one coordinator in each neighborhood who lives in the neighborhood and will work with state agencies to support that community and better prepare returning citizens for re-entry and a life that is not reliant on crime.

Maryland State Crime Plan and Law Enforcement Councils (SB907). This emergency legislation creates the Law Enforcement Coordinating Council to prevent and reduce crime by (1) coordinating and focusing State resources and (2) ensuring interagency communications and intelligence sharing throughout State and local law enforcement agencies. The legislation also requires the Department of State Police to establish regional councils throughout the State to: identify regional crime trends; strategize on the deployment of resources to respond to regional crime — particularly violent crime; review outstanding warrants; and discuss community engagement efforts.

Background Checks on All Private Gun Purchases (HB4). This crucial public safety legislation will ensure that all rifle and shotgun transfers are done above board. Currently, there is no law that requires background checks are conducted for private firearm sales. House Bill 4 will result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every transaction is properly vetted. This bill also imposes penalties on any parties who attempt to circumvent this background check process or provide false information to complete a transfer.

I am hopeful that this robust package of legislation will make a real impact on crime and prosecution rates in Baltimore. I live in and am raising children in Baltimore and not a day goes by that I am not working to create a safer city for everyone.

ENVIRONMENT

As a coastal state and one dependent on our waterways and beaches for tourism, Maryland must play a leading role in preserving our environment – for future generations, but also for economic reasons. I am a strong supporter of environmental legislation, and am proud of my record as a “Green Champion” by the League of Conservation Voters. This year, I championed three bills to protect the environment: (1) The Plastic Bag Reduction Act (HB209/SB313), (2) the Transit Safety and Investment Act (HB368/SB424), and (3) the Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act (HB614/SB460). All three of these bills sought to address global warming and the degradation of our environment: (1) by reducing trash and pollution of our waterways, (2) by making public transit in Maryland safer and more reliable so that people can get where they need to go, and so that more people are inclined to use public transit instead of driving their own cars, and (3) by ensuring that the public has access to complaints, enforcement reports, and violations of environmental and natural resource laws — this will empower the public to be watchdogs and increase accountability at the Maryland Department of the Environment. All of these bills passed one chamber but not the other because of the shortened session. I plan to sponsor these bills again next year.

I supported many other environmental initiatives as well. Many of you reached out to me about HB1545/SB887, a bill to responsibly decrease Maryland’s carbon dioxide emissions rate by ending coal burning at Maryland’s six remaining coal plants and support coal plant workers and communities impacted by coal plant closures by establishing a Coal Community Transition Fund. I also heard from many of you about HB438/SB560, a bill to update Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards so that trash incineration is no longer classified as a renewable energy source, and is no longer subsidized by the state.Unfortunately, neither of these bills passed. After several years of effort, the General Assembly did pass a ban on Chlorpyrifos (HB229/SB300). This bill prohibits aerial application of chlorpyrifos and establishes a Pesticide Transition Fund to support Maryland farmers transitioning away from chlorpyrifos. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that chlorpyrifos is the fourth most common pesticide found in human foods!

I was proud to be part of a movement this session to focus on resiliency as our coastal towns and cities in Maryland prepare for rising water levels and hotter temperatures. Flooding already causes around $2 million in damages each year in Baltimore and the urban heat island effect causes public health issues throughout District 46. It’s time that we start putting time and resources into planning for these inevitable emergencies. I co-sponsored HB539/SB457 to allow the City and other counties to create their own Resilience Authorities to give more leeway to funding initiatives to mitigate flooding and rising temperatures.

My plastic bag ban legislation was part of the “Pathway to Zero Waste” legislative package this year. This package included many of the bills that I discussed above, plus legislation focused on incentivizing composting, recycling transparency, and more. I will be supporting and co-sponsoring many of these bills again next year to help them gain more traction and help move our state to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

TRANSPORTATION

One of my most important bills this session was legislation to provide dedicated funding to the Maryland Transit Administration. The Transit Safety and Investment Act (HB368/SB424) sought to ensure that the State is providing the proper investment into MTA’s capital resources. MDOT’s Capital Needs Inventory in 2019 revealed that they needed $2 billion additional dollars simply to maintain a state of good repair over the next 10 years! Although we were successful in the House, the Senate did not pass this legislation prior to Sine Die. With the rapid decrease in travel because of COVID-19, I suspect that our MTA will be in even more dire straits next year. I also helped usher through a bill to work toward expanded MARC service. HB1236 will start the process of negotiating with Virginia and Delaware to expand commuter service and will require a plan for a spur between the Penn and Camden line in downtown Baltimore. Unfortunately, the study to restart creation of the Baltimore Bayview station was cut from the bill at the last moment – I will continue championing that as well.

Late last year I helped create the first Maryland Transit Caucus and this year it saw huge growth – we now count over 75 members! I am thrilled to help lead this Caucus and was proud of the package of bipartisan legislation we prioritized this year.

The Transit Caucus prioritized six bills this year – four of which passed through the House! They included: (1) the MTA funding bill; (2) the P3 Oversight and Reform Act (HB1424), to strengthen Maryland’s public-private partnership laws to ensure oversight and predictability to protect the financial and environmental health of the state; (3) the Pedestrian Safety Act (HB973/SB815), to dedicate fines for traffic offenses related to pedestrians to the Pedestrian Safety Fund; (4) the Electric Bus Transition Act (HB432/SB423), to require MTA to transition its approximately 800 bus fleet to all electric over time, as the agency procures replacement buses; (5) the Southern Maryland Transit Project (HB205/SB105), which requires the state to pay over the course of several years for the final environmental planning phase of the Southern MD Rapid Transit Project; and (6) the Western Maryland Transit Study (HB1367), which requires the MDOT to study the feasibility of expanding commuter rail service to Western Maryland via the MARC Train line and/or currently inactive rail lines. Most of these bills passed in their own chamber, but none of them made it all the way to the Governor’s desk. We will remain committed to and continue to push these issues as the caucus grows stronger! I look forward to working with my fellow members in the House and Senate to pass these important bills and create a more vibrant and better connected state.

ARTS

Over 25,248 full-time equivalent jobs in Maryland owe their creation to the arts sector in Maryland, along with $87.4 million in local and state revenue. The total economic activity generated by the arts sector in Maryland has been measured to be over $961 million per year. Undoubtedly, the arts sector in Maryland is prolific, an economic engine, and adds to the wealth of reasons to live in the State of Maryland – and in Baltimore, where we are so fortunate to have an abundance of museums, music, and arts organizations working with and in our communities every day. Every year that I have been in office, the Governor has reduced funding for arts organizations. This year, he allocated zero capital dollars for arts organizations in the capital budget, including museums, theaters, and more. Therefore, this session, I sponsored two bills to support our arts communities in Maryland – one bill to support capital funding for arts organizations and create the Maryland Arts Capital Grant Program (HB127/SB287), and another to support operating funding (HB135/SB465). Combined, these bills sought to support our small and large arts organizations now and in the years to come. The arts not only enrich our lives, they help our state economy and our communities thrive. It’s imperative that Maryland continue to support and invest in the arts. Both of these bills came very close to passing, and I will continue to support the arts next session and beyond!

PROMOTING STRONG FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

Baltimore – and Maryland – are only as strong as our communities and families. I am passionate about supporting families, workers, and small businesses and every year I sponsor and support legislation to promote our communities.

Housing & Neighborhoods

This year, after 23 years of introductions, the Maryland General Assembly took a critical step towards ending housing discrimination by passing the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act (HB231/SB530). The HOME Act ensures that individuals using a voucher cannot be turned down for housing simply because of the type of income they have to spend on housing – it prohibits “source of income” discrimination. I was incredibly proud to be the lead sponsor of this legislation and carry on the work of former Delegates John Hurson, Tom Hucker, Salima Marriott, Liz Bobo, Doyle Niemann, and Steve Lafferty.

I also sponsored the Community Development Program Act (HB472/SB387), that, if passed would have provided additional resources to the dormant Community Development Fund, that is dedicated to supporting neighborhood revitalization, community organizing, community services, small business development and main street district revitalization across our state. We failed to pass the bill this year but I will continue to champion this cause in the future because I firmly believe in investing in community-based organizations because of the key role that they play in the neighborhood revitalization.

Supporting Workers & Families

I was a proud co-sponsor of the Time to Care Act (HB839/SB539) again this year which would give Marylanders more support when they need time off work to care for loved ones at the beginning of life, the end of life, or during an emergency. I believe that the government has a role to play in ensuring stability for families at a time when personal life has to come first. Unfortunately, due to the shortened legislative session, this bill did not make it through the legislative process. I look forward to enthusiastically supporting it again next year.

Too many Maryland employees and businesses are being harmed by an unfair and unnecessary employment practice that remains all too common: relying on applicants’ salary history to set pay. I co-sponsored the “wage history bill” (HB123/SB217) that requires an employer, on request, to provide a job applicant the wage range for the position to which they are applying, rather than allowing the employer to rely on an applicant’s wage history to determine their future pay. The latter approach has a tendency to perpetuate wage discrimination from one job to the next. Eliminating salary history from the decision of what to pay someone is long overdue; enacting this legislation will make Maryland employment policy more equitable for all. This bill passed and will become law.

I was also an enthusiastic supporter of Maryland’s CROWN Act (HB1444/SB 531) which will add hair texture and style to the definition of race and prohibit employers from discriminating against employees for their hairstyles. This bill was passed with bipartisan and overwhelming support and was sent to the Governor.

Protecting Marylanders’ Access to Healthcare

We worked on a number of important health care bills this session to ensure that all Marylanders have access to quality, affordable health care services and medications, including:

HB959/SB872: Health Insurance – As the Trump administration makes efforts in Congress, in the courts, and across the country to derail the Affordable Care Act, it was important to join my colleagues in supporting this bill which will codify several aspects of the ACA into state law, specifically the consumer protection provisions.

HB1120/SB738: Health Care Providers and Health Benefit Plans – This bill restricts hospitals and medical facilities from withholding medical services from a patient due to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or disability of the individual. It is critical that we try to remove bias from the health care system and ensure equitable access to care for all.

HB448/SB402: Telehealth Practices – This bill authorizes health care providers to provide telehealth services for their patients so long as the level of care remains consistent. Telehealth makes it easier for Marylanders with geographic, time, and mobility restrictions to receive primary and behavioral health services. Telehealth is also vital in a time of public health emergency, such as COVID-19.

HB1100: Prescription Drug Affordability Board – This bill allows the Prescription Drug Affordability Board to set upper payment limits with the ultimate goal of lowering the cost of prescription drugs for Marylanders.

HB1420/SB 875: Hospital Financial Assistance Policies and Bill Collections – I was a proud co-sponsor of this legislation which will expand financial assistance to families across Maryland who otherwise would not be able to afford hospital care.

All of these bills passed and are pending the Governor’s signature to become law!

I will continue to work with my colleagues next year to pass HB1081/SB873: the Medical Debt Protection Act. This bill would have put into place a number of guardrails to protect Marylanders from predatory hospital debt collection practices and ensure that Marylanders would not become destitute because they got sick.

Protecting Consumers – Retail Energy Suppliers

In the past two years, the number of calls I receive from constituents complaining about doorknocks from retail energy salesmen continues to increase. This year, I was proud to sponsor HB1224/SB685 to ensure that low-income Marylanders who receive energy assistance from the state are not being taken advantage of by these third-party retail supply companies. This legislation would follow the lead of several other states that have created a way to ensure that only third party suppliers with electricity/gas products that cost less than standard offer service can take energy assistance funds…another way to ensure that we are using taxpayer dollars (via energy assistance programs) most efficiently and responsibly! This bill passed the Senate but we ran out of time to consider it in the House. I will work hard to pass this bill next year.

SUPPORTING MARYLAND BUSINESSES

Baltimore is special because of our people and because of our small businesses – they add character and a draw to so many of our neighborhoods! Whether it’s an urban pirate ship docked in Fell’s Point, an independent bookstore, cheese shop, restaurant, tech or architecture or law firm – the economy of our District and our City relies on these businesses to thrive and to create jobs. I try hard to be an advocate for our business sector, including brick and mortar stores and our entrepreneurial community. This year, I supported our small businesses by co-sponsoring several pieces of legislation, including HB492/SB493, a bipartisan bill that increases the minimum amount of funding that the Governor must appropriate each year to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network Fund to over $1 million. The SBDC offers free business consulting services to new and existing small businesses. The counseling provided ranges from best practices to financing to bringing all appropriate or applicable resources to the table. I also co-sponsored a bill to establish the Maryland Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Incentive Program (HB514/SB398), which aims to foster job creation and economic development in the state through a grant and investment program administered by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO).

I also enthusiastically supported a bill to create greater opportunities for minority business enterprises (HB313/SB442) and was a proud sponsor of HB521/SB583 to establish the Maryland Small Business Innovation Research Technical Assistance Program. This program provides technical assistance to eligible small businesses to encourage and facilitate the receipt of grants under the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs. I am thrilled that all four of these bills passed both chambers and are awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law. Unfortunately, we were not able to pass HB930/SB977 which was a bill that Delegate Lewis and I proposed with Senator Hester to establish a small business health insurance subsidy program to help defray costs for small businesses to access affordable health insurance coverage through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

I heard from many of you this year about HB1219/SB817 which would take politics out of the parole process by increasing the number of years an individual with a life sentence must serve in prison before being able to be paroled, and removing the requirement for the Governor to review and approve parole. Unfortunately, this bill did not have time to make its way through the Senate in the shortened session. Fortunately, we were able to pass HB801/SB684 to create the state’s first pre-release unit *for women* – who have never had one before! Pre-release centers are critical resources for successful re-entry and it puts women inmates at a huge disadvantage not to have access to one.

Too often, individuals land in jail simply for being poor and unable to afford paying a fine or fee. Following the lead of D.C. and Virginia, I worked with Attorney General Brian Frosh this session to pass legislation prohibiting the MVA from suspending a driver’s license merely because an individual cannot afford to pay a fine or fee (civil suit is still an option for the state). HB280/SB234 will also enable more people to take advantage of payment plans offered by the court system which can apply retroactively.

I also worked with the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association, the Office of the Public Defender, and many churches to propose legislation designed to ensure that our young people are not falsely confessing to charges and their parents are notified when they are detained by police. Children under 18 provide false confessions at three times the rate of adults. This past year, two young students (with disabilities) were questioned by police in school for having play money and their parents were not notified. As a parent, I find that unacceptable. I worked on HB624/SB593, the Juvenile Interrogation Protection Act to ensure parental notification, Miranda rights that are understandable for kids, and to ensure that a lawyer is available for children prior to questioning. The bill did not pass this session, but I will continue to work to ensure due process exists for all Marylanders.

OPEN & ETHICAL GOVERNMENT

I believe that the government should be open and transparent to all residents as a key component of Democracy. In order to move us closer towards this goal, this session I sponsored the Equitable Access to Records Act (HB502/SB590) which streamlines and simplifies the process for residents making requests under the Public Information Act. In this same vein, I co-sponsored a bill (HB140/SB56) which requires petitions and ballot questions to be written in plain language – at a 6th grade reading level or below – so that more Marylanders can truly understand what they are voting on when issues come to the public for a vote. These bills did not pass this session – we simply ran out of time – but I will continue working on open government issues next session. As the new ethics subcommittee chair, I also oversaw a number of ethics bills and I was happy to help pass HB315, a bill that ensures that there is no ‘revolving door’ in government so that in addition to legislators, that also no secretaries can leave their positions and immediately begin lobbying. We also increased penalties for bribery. We did not have time to pass other legislation, but I look forward to continuing to strengthen our ethics laws – send me your ideas!

THANK YOU!

It is the honor of my life to serve as a State Delegate in the Maryland House and to represent the people of District 46. In the limited amount of time that we had, I worked day in and day out to pass legislation to create opportunities, reduce barriers, create a safe, thriving, and prosperous Maryland for all.

I look forward to continuing serving as your representative and hope you will keep in touch with me during this challenging time. Never hesitate to reach out to me or my legislative director, Dani DiPietro, with concerns, questions, or ideas. Our office phone number is (410) 841-3319 and we can be reached by email at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us. Take care!

My best,

Brooke



Baltimore COVID-19 FAQs

Resources en Espanol: mima.baltimorecity.gov/coronavirus

What are the state websites I should bookmark? https://governor.maryland.gov/marylandunites/ https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/

https://governor.maryland.gov/marylandunites/

What do I do if I think I am sick?
Stay calm and follow these guidelines from the CDC: CDC Guidelines
Call your primary care physician! Your doctor can help you find more information and appropriate next steps

Where can I get food?

  • Children: Whether your children rely on school to receive meals or your kitchen is purely for show and you have no idea how to cook……you can find where meals are being distributed to students here: https://www.bmorechildren.com/freemeals
  • Rec Centers: 40 of the City’s 44 Rec Centers are offering afternoon snacks and dinner foods. Visit https://www.bmorechildren.com/freemeals
  • Seniors: Visit the Rec Centers or check out these resources for more information –

Where can I buy groceries at stores with less crowds?

  • GIANT: Seniors may shop from 6am-7am
  • Dollar General: Seniors may shop during first hour of each day
  • Target: Seniors may shop an hour before stores open on Wednesdays
  • Whole Foods: Seniors may shop an hour before opening
  • Safeway: Seniors may shop 6am-9am on Tuesdays and Thursdays

What grocery stores will deliver to my home?

  • GIANT: PeaPod, 1800-573-2763
  • Safeway: www.Safeway.com
  • Eddie’s Roland Park: 410-889-1558
  • ShopRite: Shop.shoprite.com
  • Chesapeake Farm to Table:  443-841-2327

I’m a small business owner – how can I get a loan or assistance? Small businesses in Baltimore City are eligible to apply for funding through the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. Small businesses and private non-profit organizations can apply directly to the SBA for financial assistance here: disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

Comptroller’s Office: Check out tax information here.

What services are open in Baltimore City? Updates on Baltimore City Government Operations are available via the link below:
health.baltimorecity.gov/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

Where can I find more information about my child’s public school? Baltimore City Public Schools COVID-19 Information Portal:
baltimorecityschools.org/health-updates

I have a condition that makes me vulnerable but I am afraid if I do not go to work I will lose my job!
Governor Larry Hogan signed HB1663/SB1080, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020, which supports the governor’s ongoing actions to combat COVID-19 and protects Marylanders from certain economic hardships that may result from this pandemic.

What do I do if I do not have health insurance?
●      It is the goal of Maryland Health Connection to offer affordable ACA-compliant insurance coverage to uninsured Marylanders. The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin Monday, March 16, and end Wednesday, April 15. Coverage will begin April 1, 2020, regardless of when a health plan is selected during that time period.
●      To enroll, individuals can visit MD Health Connection or download the free “Enroll MHC” mobile app. When enrolling, consumers should request or select “Coronavirus Emergency Special Enrollment Period.”
Free consumer assistance is available by calling 855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Deaf and hard of hearing may use Relay. Help is available in more than 200 languages

I own a small business and am concerned about how I am going to survive this pandemic!
The entire state of Maryland has received a Disaster Declaration for Economic Injury. Small businesses may apply for economic injury disaster loans here: Small Business Administration

I can not even start to think about taxes at a time like this!
Earlier this week the Federal Administration moved the payment deadline for federal taxes to July 15th. There is no need to file for an extension, you can pay up to and on July 15th without interest or penalties. In addition, Maryland business and individual income taxpayers will be given a 90-day extension for tax payments. No interest or penalty for late payments will be imposed if 2019 tax payments are made by July 15, 2020. Press Release more information, or reach out to tax payer relief e-mail with questions.

Hundreds of City residents have applied for unemployment insurance. For displaced workers, check out these resources:

I don’t drive. Is Mass Transit still available?
The best policy for everyone is to stay put as much as possible. That being said, if you have an emergency and absolutely must get somewhere, you can find the most up to date information on transit here: mass transit

COVID Response – Business Resources

The MD Department of Commerce has a site set up with business information, including loans to retain employees and more: https://businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus

The Comptroller’s Office has indicated that there is an extension for ALL TAX PAYMENTS.

You can now apply for SBA emergency loans, 30-year terms, up to $2mil. Apply online at the SBA website: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

Maryland Small Business Development Center Guide to loans/grants and ‘how to’ guide can be found here.

Small Business Relief & Unemployment Benefits
✔️Information on Businesses and COVID-19 can be found here
 
✔️Information on the Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund Programs for Businesses can be found here


Maryland has authorized $130 million in loan and grant funding for small businesses and manufacturers that have been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This emergency assistance provides interim relief and proceeds that can be used to pay cash operating expenses including payroll, suppliers, rent, fixed debt payments and other mission critical cash operating costs.

If you are a Maryland-based business impacted by the Coronavirus with under 50 full- and part-time employees, or a Maryland manufacturer, check out the programs below to see if you qualify for assistance.

Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Loan Fund – This $75 million loan fund (for for-profit businesses only) offers no interest or principal payments due for the first 12 months, then converts to a 36-month term loan of principal and interest payments, with an interest rate at 2% per annum. Learn more.

 Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Fund – This $50 million grant program for businesses and non-profits offers grant amounts up to $10,000, not to exceed 3 months of demonstrated cash operating expenses for the first quarter of 2020. Learn more.

 Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Relief Manufacturing Fund – This $5 million incentive program helps Maryland manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) that is urgently needed by hospitals and health-care workers across the country. More details are expected to be announced by Friday, March 27, 2020.

✔️Information on the COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund can be found here.
 
✔️Information on how to file for Unemployment is available here. As a reminder, Maryland does not have a delay period before a person can apply for Unemployment Insurance.

Taxes Filing Deadline & Payments Extended
Comptroller Franchot and U.S. Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin just announced the Tax Day for state and federal income taxes is moved from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to FILE AND MAKE payments without interest or penalties. The agency has set up a dedicated email address — taxpayerrelief@marylandtaxes.gov — to assist businesses with extension-related questions. Business owners can also call the Comptroller’s Ombudsman at 410-260-4020.

If you prepaid sales & use taxes for March, you can get a refund. Call 410-260-4020 or email taxpayerrelief@marylandtaxes.gov.
* April 15 – Filing deadline for federal income tax or to file a federal extension.  No separate Maryland extension is necessary if you file a federal extension. 
* June 1 – Returns and payments are due for Maryland business-related taxes not collected in March, April and May including sales and use tax, withholding tax, and admissions & amusement tax, alcohol tax, tobacco tax, and motor fuel tax, as well as tire recycling fee and bay restoration fee returns.
* July 15 – Deadline for Maryland individual, corporate, pass through entity, and fiduciary income tax payments, as well as March quarterly estimated payments.
* October 15 – Deadline for filing Maryland income tax returns if a federal extension was filed.
OTHER BUSINESS RESOURCES

NFIB: https://www.nfib.com/content/analysis/coronavirus/latest-on-coronavirus-from-nfib/

U.S. Department of Labor – guidelines on preparing workplaces for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – information for employers and employees: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/

U.S. Department of Labor – information on Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

Small Business Administration – information on disaster assistance loans: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSBA/bulletins/280d49d

SmallBusiness.com – https://smallbusiness.com/planning/disaster/covid-19-guidance-for-businesses-and-employers-from-the-center-for-disease-control-prevention-2020/

Maryland Health Working Families Act – the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Labor and Industry enforces the Maryland Health Working Families Act, also known as safe and sick leave, which may be useful for employees who need to take off from work due to COVID-19. To learn more about the law, email ssl.assistance@maryland.gov or call 410-767-235.

Temporary or Permanent Layoffs – if a business experiences a temporary or permanent layoff, the MD Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance’s Bulk Claim Services can open unemployment insurance claims for all affected employees. Businesses should contact a Claims Representative by emailing dluibulkclaims-dllr@maryland.gov or calling (410) 767-3252, or visiting: http://www.labor.maryland.gov/employment/unemployment.shtml

Maryland Insurance Administration has also put together an FAQ addressing insurance-related questions about coronavirus: https://insurance.maryland.gov/Pages/newscenter/NewsDetails.aspx?NR=2020251

Update from Annapolis

Special Update

Friends and Neighbors,

As you may have heard, the Legislative Session will be ending early tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, due to the emergency public health protocol in place to address the Coronavirus.  The World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic that has infected nearly 200,000 people worldwide, and a national emergency has been declared. 

As of today, March 17 2020, Maryland has reported 57 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Updates from the Governor and our State Government
Maryland will operate under a state of emergency and will take additional precautionary measures to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. For a complete list of actions the state is taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak, visit: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/12/governor-hogan-announces-major-actions-to-protect-public-health-limit-spread-of-covid-19-pandemic/

The Governor has postponed the state’s April 28 primary until June 2, 2020 (except for the 7th Congressional District race, which will be held by mail).The State Board of Elections will develop a plan to conduct the primary in a safe way. More information will be forthcoming at the State Board of Elections website in the next few days: 
https://www.elections.maryland.gov/.

Small Business Support: Visit the Maryland Dept of Commerce website – https://businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus

The Governor has also announced the following Executive Orders regarding COVID-19:
All restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms are closed, except for drive-thru, carryout, and food delivery services. (Support our small businesses by doing carrying or delivery and buying gift cards to use later!)
Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential services will remain open. Drive-thru, carryout and food delivery service will be allowed to continue.
Any social, community, religious, recreational sports, gatherings or events of more than 50 people in close proximity are PROHIBITED in all locations, establishments and venues all across Maryland.
250 Maryland state troopers have been activated and are ready for deployment.
5,000 medically trained volunteers in the Maryland Medical Reserve Corp have been activated to assist with public health emergencies.
Medical professionals with out of state or expired Maryland licenses will be permitted to practice during the state of emergency.
Hospital facilities across the state that had been previously closed may be reopened by the Maryland Department of Health. Other actions may be necessary to increase the state’s capacity  to care for patients and increase hospital beds by 6,000.
Residential customers are protected from gas, water, electric, sewer, phone, cable, and internet services being shut off during state of emergency. Providers will not charge late fees.
For the duration of the state of emergency, residents will not be evicted​

The legislature, the Governor and all state agencies are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat. At the behest of Governor Hogan, the General Assembly took immediate legislative action and introduced two COVID-19 bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency: 

HB 1661: State Budget Today the House approved the FY21 budget. This year’s budget bill provides the Governor with up to $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to help respond to the public health threat and ensures all state agencies will continue functioning throughout this crisis and grant funding continues to be available for our non-profits and small businesses.  

HB 1663: State Government – State of Emergency and Catastrophic Health Emergency – Authority of Governor and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat: 
Changes the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits;
Eliminates co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing;
Requires the Maryland Department of Health to cover the cost of COVID–19 testing and any associated costs not paid for by insurance or another third party;
Covers the cost of COVID–19 immunization should it become available;
Waives certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online;Requires the Maryland Department of Health to reimburse patients for telehealth services related to COVID–19;
Allows the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19;
Prevents retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel and medicine; Prohibits employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19.

The General Assembly may reconvene in May for a special session to finalize any outstanding legislative work. By adjourning the legislative session early, we hope to serve as a model for our local governments and neighboring states. Practicing social distancing now can save lives later.  

The Speaker and Senate President have established a special workgroup – the Joint Committee on the COVID-19 Response – to monitor the effects of the virus and advise the General Assembly on the steps to take to prevent the further spread of the virus. 

I urge you to follow the Maryland Health Department’s COVID-19 website as the best resource to track the virus in Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/.   

Baltimore Information
Food sites for students and seniors are being updated daily. The list can be found at this map, and more information for Baltimore City School students can be found here.
Please also visit the Baltimore City COVID-19 website for up-to-date information on the response to the virus and emergency resources https://health.baltimorecity.gov/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov
DPW and BGE are suspending all service disconnections.
AARP is conducting tele-town halls to discuss the coronavirus as well – click here.
Many neighborhoods are organizing volunteer opportunities. Click here for more information. 

We are just beginning what will be a very difficult time period in our communities and state. It is my great hope that we will all rise to the circumstances, look out for our neighbors, and take care of one another. Stay safe, be kind, and take care.

My best,
Brooke

Websites to bookmark
Maryland Department of Health
Baltimore City Department of Health
Baltimore City Public Schools  
 Follow me on Facebook or Twitter    Authorized by Brooke Lierman for Delegate; Chairman, Alvin Lee; Treasurer, Sophia Silbergeld  If you believe you received this message in error or wish to no longer receive email from us, please

COVID-19 in Maryland: Resources & FAQs

Everyone should refer to the MDH website dedicated to COVID-19 (health.maryland.gov/coronavirus). Case counts are updated every morning at 10 a.m. This will keep you informed about the number of cases being tested and the results, as well as up-to-date CDC guidance. 

Marylanders are also advised to dial 2-1-1 to talk to experts about any questions or concerns related to COVID-19.

Business and Employee Resources can be found HERE.

INFORMATION AS OF MARCH 12, 2020

UPDATE FROM ANNAPOLIS: Due to coronavirus, the House of Delegates has adopted a “no receptions” rule effective this Friday, March 13th AND a “sponsor only” public hearing rule beginning next week. Citizens wishing to submit testimony may email written testimony to our office and we can upload it for them in advance of the committee hearing. My colleagues in the General Assembly and I have been in constant contact with the Maryland Department of Health, who put together this FAQ bulletin that I wanted to share with you.

The most up-to-date information about the novel coronavirus can be found at coronavirus.gov  and on the Maryland Department of Health COVID-19 website.

UPDATE FROM BALTIMORE CITY: Mass gathering guidelines, effective immediately, ask event organizers to consider both the number of people attending the event, as well as specific features of the space the event is being held.

  • Large events (more than 250 people): Event organizers should consider canceling or postponing the event.
  • Medium events (100-250 people):  Consider the following recommendations when determining event cancellation or postponement: 
    • Size: Smaller is better. Smaller events can limit the spread of illnesses through communities. 
    • Density: If the venue or setting doesn’t enable people to keep social distance (more than arm’s length of one another), the risk of spreading the virus increases. People should avoid crowded places where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.
  • Small events (<100 people):  Event organizers should urge anyone who is sick to not attend, encourage those who are at higher risk for serious illness to not attend, find ways to give people more physical space and reduce close contact as much as possible.

For the entire COVID-19 Guidance for Mass Gatherings, please visit Baltimore City Health Department website at : https://health.baltimorecity.gov/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.

UPDATE FOR SCHOOLS: ALL SCHOOLS CLOSED Monday, March 16 – Friday March 27

UPDATE FOR BUSINESSES:  Here are some resources that may be helpful to you – 

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has developed some guidelines for how companies can prepare their workplace for COVID-19. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a COVID-19 website with information specifically for workers and employers.  There is also information on issues relating to wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act available here. 
  • The Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Labor and Industry enforces the Maryland Health Working Families Act, also known as safe and sick leave, which may be useful for employees who need to take off from work due to COVID-19. To learn more about the law, email ssl.assistance@maryland.gov or call 410-767-235. 
  • If a business experiences a temporary or permanent layoff, Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance’s Bulk Claim Services can open unemployment insurance claims for all affected employees. Businesses should contact a Claims Representative by emailing dluibulkclaims-dllr@maryland.gov or calling (410) 767-3252. 
  • The Maryland Insurance Administration has also put together an FAQ addressing insurance-related questions about coronavirus.
  • President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide low-interest loans to companies affected by the outbreak, and that he will ask Congress to increase funding for the SBA lending program to $50 billion. 

The Governor and the legislature are working hard on emergency legislation and funding to address the virus. The Governor is staying in close touch with Vice President Pence, and federal leaders are continuing to develop plans to stimulate the U.S. economy and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. State agencies including the Department of Commerce are prepared to fully serve our clients in the business community, even if we must work remotely. Maryland is still “Open for Business.”

Five Steps to Prepare for COVID-19

Infectious disease experts say most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, like the common cold. But it can be more severe in older adults and people with chronic health conditions. There are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

#1 – Make a plan – Create a plan for school, work and home.

  • Make a list of organizations that can help if you become sick. 
  • Join a neighborhood website or social media page to stay updated on the latest news in your area. 
  • Create a care plan for at risk family members, such as older people and people with chronic health conditions. 

#2 – Prepare as you would for a winter storm

  • There is no need to buy large quantities of supplies. But, it’s good idea to pick up a few extra items each time you go to the market or pharmacy. That way, you’re prepared and can avoid crowds.
  • Pick up some extra foods like canned goods, dry pasta, and peanut butter.
  • Have soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, and fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand.

#3 Get ready for possible changes in daily schedules

At school: Make plans to care for your children if schools are closed temporarily. Just like you would for snow days. Make plans for alternate after-school care in case they are closed temporarily.

At work: Ask to work from home or take leave if you or someone in your household gets sick, or if your child’s school is temporarily closed.

#4 – Stay informed

  • Stay connected on your state and local health department’s social media pages and websites for timely and accurate COVID-19 information.
  • Accurate and up-to-date information is available from the State Health Department at https://phpa.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Novel-coronavirus.aspx, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and social media platform at www.coronavirus.gov  
  • If you decide to attend a public event, practice good health habits:
    • Try to keep at least 6 feet of distance between you and others at the event.
    • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
    • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs and handrails.

#5 – Prevent the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19
Everyone should:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before you eat.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue and discard in a closed container.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

For people who are sick:

  • Stay home.
  • If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, such as acetaminophen.
  • Keep sick household members away from others. 
  • Use soap and water, bleach and-water solution, or EPA-approved household products. You can make your own cleanser with a mixture of 1 cup of liquid unscented chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water. 
  • Avoid sharing personal items.
  • Anyone at high risk for complications should talk to their health care provider for more information. 

FAQs

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. COVID-19 a new virus that hasn’t caused illness in humans before. Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in thousands of human infections, causing illness and in some cases death. Cases have spread to countries throughout the world, with more cases reported daily.

Has COVID-19 spread to the U.S.?

COVID-19 has spread to the United States and has caused some people to become ill, and in severe cases, deaths. While most of the confirmed cases have been from people who have traveled internationally to countries with a lot of cases of COVID-19, there has been some community spread reported in the U.S. “Community spread” means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

What is the risk to the public right now?

It is likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. Experts expect that the coming weeks and months, we can expect to see more cases in the U.S. and worldwide.  Community spread is how the common cold and flu are transmitted — meaning people catch it from each other while going about their daily lives. Reported community spread of COVID-19 in 2 parts of the U.S. raises the level of concern about the immediate threat for the affected communities.

Does anyone in Maryland have this new virus now?

Yes, Maryland currently has confirmed cases of COVID-19. On March 5, Gov. Hogan declared a state of emergency to further mobilize all available state resources. The declaration officially authorized and directed the MDH and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to ramp up coordination among all state and local agencies. The declaration also enables MDH and MEMA to fast-track coordination with our state and local health departments and emergency management teams.

Up-to-date information about testing and case counts in Maryland are available at health.maryland.gov/coronavirus. The page is updated daily.

Who is at risk right now? Currently, people are at risk who:

  • Recently traveled to geographic areas of concern
  • Have close, personal contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Care for people with COVID-19

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is thought to be able to spread like the cold or flu through:

  • Coughing and sneezing, which creates respiratory droplets
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • In more severe cases, pneumonia (infection in the lungs)

What should I do if I think I am sick with COVID-19?

If you have recently traveled to any geographic area of concern or were in contact with someone with COVID-19, and you become sick with fever, cough or have difficulty breathing, seek medical care right away. Follow these steps:

  • Call your doctor or emergency room before you go
  • Tell them about recent travel and close contacts (such as people in your household)
  • Wear a mask, if one is available

If someone has COVID-19, what will happen to them?

The vast majority of people recover from this infection. Most people will have mild or moderate

3 symptoms. Some people may be advised to recover at home and isolate themselves from others. These individuals should call their physicians or health care practitioners if their symptoms get worse.

Some COVID-19 infections can lead to serious illness, and in some cases death. If someone has a more serious illness from COVID-19, they may be admitted to the hospital. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for serious illness. Examples of pre-existing medical conditions are: cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions impacting the immune system’s ability to fight germs.

Should I cancel plans to travel abroad?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is updating travel advisories as warranted. CDC has advised against nonessential travel to some geographic areas of concern. Those with underlying health conditions are advised to avoid nonessential travel to certain areas as well.

Visit the CDC travel advisory site to check on current travel warnings if you are planning a trip

abroad: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public?

No. Face masks are not recommended for the general public, though masks can be useful in some settings — such as in a hospital or clinic waiting room — to prevent someone who has a

respiratory illness from spreading it to others.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a facemask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

What can I do to protect myself and others?

Take everyday preventive steps that are always recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like colds and flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, your sleeve or your elbow
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using standard cleaning
  • practices
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home, except when seeking medical care

Is there a vaccine or medicine I can get for COVID-19?

Not yet, because COVID-19 is a new disease. However, many experts are at work developing one. As with any new vaccine, it must be tested to make certain it is safe and effective. It may take more than a year for a COVID-19 vaccine to become readily available. There is also no specific medicine currently available to cure COVID-19. However, people who have COVID-19 should seek medical care to help lessen the severity of their symptoms.

How can I be more prepared for COVID-19?

  • Have an adequate supply of nonprescriptive drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines
  • Check your regular prescription drugs to make sure you have an adequate supply; refill your prescriptions if needed
  • Have a thermometer, tissues and hand sanitizer in case you become ill and must stay at home to recover
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick and what will be needed to care for them at home
  • Have a two-week supply of water and food available at home

Is there anything else I should know?

  • Do not stigmatize people of any specific ethnicities or racial background. Viruses do not target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds.
  • Stay informed and seek information from reliable, official sources. Be wary of myths, rumors and misinformation circulating online and elsewhere. Health information shared through social media is frequently inaccurate, unless coming from an official, reliablesource such as the CDC, MDH or local health departments.

Are there additional resources available for specific groups?

The CDC provides current information about COVID-19 at www.cdc.gov

Weekly Updates – To receive the weekly email about COVID-19, enter your email address and type “COVID-19” in the search box at this URL:https://tools.cdc.gov/campaignproxyservice/subscriptions.aspx?topic_id=USCDC_2067

Businesses

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html

Pregnant Women, those who are breastfeeding, and children

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnant-women.html

Schools

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-schools.html

Travelers

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html

Annapolis Update: Halfway Done

This weekend marked the halfway point of the legislative session – we have 45 days to go! As I have learned, however, even though we only have 45 days left, we have way more than half the work left to accomplish. Now begins the sprint to Sine Die, the last day of session! 

The majority of the legislation I have individually filed is now waiting action in various Committees – I have several bill hearings left in the next two weeks, and we have over 100 bills left to hear in my Committee. Not sure how to follow a bill or want to peruse filed legislation this year? Check out the Maryland General Assembly Website: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/ 

My committee and subcommittee work continues – in the coming weeks, we will vote on bills related to climate change, toll roads, ethics, land use, and the HOME Act! Below I share a few items of interest from the past two weeks, and things yet to come.

Make sure you follow me on Facebook to keep up with me in real time and to see my weekly video Friday roundups of the work we do each week: www.facebook.com/brookeliermanfordelegate

The big news last week was on HB 1300, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future! Senate and House committees heard over six hours of testimony for the hearing on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (SB 1000/HB 1300) last week. Our schools are not preparing our students to lead our economy in future decades – our rates of graduation and college or career readiness are far too low for us to stay competitive in a global economy. It’s time for Maryland to follow the lead of other states that have made new investments in their public school systems, while also ensuring accountability for results. If we don’t provide children a great education now, we will be paying higher costs in Medicaid, higher costs in public safety, and higher costs in benefits, for generations to come. See Dr. Brit Kirwan’s excellent testimony on the bill online HERE (start at 27:10). If you have any questions about the Blueprint, please feel free to reach out to my office.

HB1: Funding for School Buildings: The House has passed HB 1, legislation to provide additional capital funding for school districts around Maryland, including $400 m for Baltimore City Public Schools. Passing this bill would enable Baltimore City Public Schools to continue renovating and building new school buildings. Every child deserves a first-class school building in which to learn and grow.

Public Safety: Baltimore is facing an unprecedented public safety crisis – and violent crime has risen in other parts of the state as well. House and Senate Democrats have introduced innovative and important public safety legislation that we will work to pass this year. No single bill will solve the issues we are confronting, but there are important things we can do at the state level. The bills we have introduced focus on three areas:

1) Real Accountability: In 2019, over 30% of murder victims and suspects were on supervision of parole & probation – that’s an incredibly high number! These victims and suspects are in the custody of the state and yet are being killed or are committing crimes. We need the Governor’s help to get this done, but the General Assembly will:

  • Require a staffing plan and vacancy elimination in Parole & Probation, Juvenile Services and Corrections to provide more resources that prevent recidivism. These departments need the resources to do their jobs to stop crime;
  • Pass legislation to stop witness intimidation, and ensure that gun offenders answer for their crimes;
  • Work with the Administration to support more resources for targeted prosecutions of the most violent offenders, particularly gun offenders.

2) Smarter Resources: All the laws in the world don’t matter if they are not enforced, or if county lines stop the needed collaboration to ensure those who violate the laws are prosecuted. The General Assembly will pass legislation to:

  • Require improved law enforcement coordination to identify regional crime trends; intelligence; outstanding warrants; to enhance resource deployment
  • Create special coordinated teams focused on violent offenders and support for high need neighborhoods to better prepare returning citizens for re-entry and a life that is not reliant on crime
  • Free up local officers to focus on crime by charging State Police with responding to accidents in major interstates;
  • Improve opportunities for local law enforcement to cross jurisdictional lines to better coordinate and identify crime trends.
  • Invest in evidence-based, public health approaches to prevent violence, using models proven in our state and elsewhere (VIPP).

3) Fewer Illegal Guns: Crime is not properly addressed as long as illegal guns continue to be present in our homes and communities. This year, legislation will:

  • Require a statewide audit of gun crimes to pinpoint where the breakdown exists in the criminal justice system, from 911 call to disposition;
  • Increase penalties for lost and stolen guns; gun thefts; and close illegal gun loopholes to make sure that fewer people have access to illegal guns.

I’ll provide updates in future weeks on these bills!

Environment & Transportation Committee: You can find information about my Committee online here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Details?cmte=ent. All assigned bills, as well as our meeting schedule, are online! We have over 300 bills assigned to our Committee, so we have long days of hearings.

BROOKE’S BILLS!   Here are a few of the pieces of legislation that I’m also working on this week…  The Equitable Access to Information Act:Maryland’s Public Information Act needs an update. Agencies can be overwhelmed with repetitive requests and members of the press and public are often denied information in a timely or cost-effective manner. And yet, there is no way to enforce the PIA provisions without resorting to the courts. The State’s PIA Ombudsman is issuing a report this month that will recommend changes to the law to strengthen it so that members of the public can have confidence that our government is being transparent in its decision-making. This bill is based on those recommendations and on the need for more proactive disclosure of information by our agencies.     Violence Intervention & Prevention Program: My first bill hearing this week is for HB 822, legislation to require funding for the Violence Intervention & Prevention Program (VIPP), our state’s only grant program designed to fund evidence-based public health oriented violence prevention programs. These programs, including Safe Streets, Roca, hospital-based interventions, and more – are a fundamental piece of creating a safer City and a safer state. These programs are credited with helping to reduce violence in Chicago, Boston, and Oakland. We must fund these programs to bring them up to scale in Baltimore!   Foster Care Reforms: You may have seen this article on NPR recently, highlighting the fact that our state’s foster care system routinely leaves children with behavioral problems in hospital emergency rooms for weeks and months at a time because it has nowhere else to house them. During that time, they cannot go outside, they cannot go to school, and they do not interact with peers. This unconstitutional and inhumane situation must end. I’m bringing a bill, HB 1382, to highlight the need to do right by our foster care children and to help solve this horrible problem.
IN THE NEWS!   Public safety is always a priority. A recently released poll of city residents shows clear support for my work on the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (VIPP). As covered in Baltimore Fishbowl, most city residents support an expansion of Violence Intervention Programs like Safe Streets. The survey shows clear support for the kinds of programs that would be funded by VIPP, groups that reach out on the streets, in our emergency rooms, and in our schools to interrupt violence before it happens.   The Jordan McNair Safe & Fair Play Act has had hearings in the Senate, WJZ reported, and in the House. This past week, I was honored that Jordan’s father, Marty McNair, gave testimony in support before the Appropriations Committee. He gave an impassioned plea for the legislature to consider  protections and opportunities this bill would give our college athletes. Did you know that according to NCAA rules, college swimmers can’t coach swim lessons?  Meanwhile, college sports coaches are the highest paid employees of our state. The Sun reported on this issue both in the paper and as an editorial.   Our efforts to clean up the State of Maryland and welcome a greener, cleaner future are drawing national attention. The New York Times mentioned the successful statewide ban on styrofoam I sponsored last year with Senator Kagan. We also had the hearing for the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act. This legislation is a no brainer: it will help us clean up our environment and waterways, it’s good for consumers, and the Maryland Retailers Association endorses my approach, as Maryland Matters Reported. The Frederick News-Post pointed out how the Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act fits into the wider efforts to respond to climate change.  Maryland Matters also took note of our push to reform our state’s public information laws. Making the Public Information Act actually work for citizens means enforcing the laws already on the books and passing these common sense changes. I think our state agencies should make information as available to the public as is reasonable, and that includes publishing frequently asked for things out in the open. We’re also seeing a lot of support for our transit funding legislation from community leaders around the state. Our Transit Safety and Investment Act would allocate the capital funding that would, as Maryland Matters points out, “get things moving.” Thank you for reading! Please keep in touch during session – and feel free to come visit! My phone number is 410-841-3319 and you can reach me at brooke.lierman@house.state.md.us.

Team 46 Town Hall

We held our annual Team 46 Town Hall this weekend! We had great turnout from constituents, young and old, from many corners of the district.

Many people requested that we post the Power Point presentation we did online, as well as links to some of the resources we mentioned.

The Power Point is available HERE.

The Maryland General Assembly Website is available HERE.

The Preakness/Pimlico video is available HERE.

Look forward to seeing you in Annapolis or around the District soon!

Annapolis Update: Bill Hearings & Team 46 Town Hall

February 10, 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

Parents of grown children often tell me that the “days are long but the years are short.” Well, in Annapolis, the days are long but the weeks fly by! I am working every day on my own legislation, in my new Committee and leadership role on environmental, housing, land use and ethics bills, meeting with constituents and advocates about a variety of issues, participating in Women’s Caucus, Latino Caucus, and leading the Transit Caucus… and responding the mail I receive (190 emails this past weekend!).

I have introduced all the legislation I plan to work on this year, and you can review the bills I am working on at my webpage on the new General Assembly website: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Members/Details/lierman01/?activeTab=divLegislation. Over 300 bills have been assigned to my Committee – the Environment & Transportation Committee – so I will be in long Committee hearings over the next 6 weeks as we hear bills, discuss them, and vote on them. Below I share a few items of interest from the past two weeks!

Make sure you follow me on Facebook to keep up with me in real time and to see my weekly Friday roundups of the work we do each week: www.facebook.com/brookeliermanfordelegate

In Annapolis

Veto Overrides: On January 30th, working with the Senate, we override several of the Governor’s vetoes of bills that we had passed last session, including vetoes on bills that protect our oyster population, ensure Marylanders re-joining society after spending time in prison have a fair chance to get a job, removing bureaucratic hurdles that made it difficult for undocumented students to get in-state tuition at four-year universities, ensuring that political appointees are not deciding who gets a handgun, and ensuring public employees have a chance to bring their grievances.

State of the State 2020: The Governor delivered his State of the State address on February 5 at noon. While we do not always agree, it is a great event and an important opportunity to hear his perspective and think at a high level about the future of Maryland. You can read his address here: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/02/05/2020-state-of-the-state-address/

Environment & Transportation Committee: You can find information about my Committee online here: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Committees/Details?cmte=ent. All assigned bills, as well as our meeting schedule, is online! We had many bills over the past two weeks, including a bill about reforming our toll payment process, helping to ensure that condominium owners have full information on their purchases, and more.

HB1 – Funding for School Buildings: This week the Appropriations Committee voted out HB1, the bill to provide additional capital funding for school districts around Maryland. Passing this bill would enable Baltimore City Public Schools to continue renovating and building new school buildings

Brooke’s Bills

Housing Opportunities Made Equal: I am proud this year to be carrying on the work of my predecessor Del. Steve Lafferty and my colleague Del. Maggie McIntosh and am the lead sponsor of the HOME Act, working on it with Sen. Will Smith (HB 231/SB530). This legislation has been introduced every year for at least a decade – but it is such a simple fix to a pernicious problem. It simply ensures that for all those Marylanders who receive government assistance in housing – veterans, low-income Marylanders, people with disabilities – that landlords may not deny them a rental unit simply because they wish to pay with a voucher. I am delighted to be working with great organizations like the Homeless Persons Representation Project and Public Justice Center and more on this legislation. I hope this is the year that we end discrimination based on one’s source of income!

The Transit Safety and Investment Act is another major bill and priority for me this year because it would address the systematic dismantling and underinvesting in transit in Central Maryland that the Hogan Administration has delivered. It is a simple but profoundly important bill: it requires MDOT to ensure that MTA has adequate capital resources to fund its state of good repair needs, which is about an additional $123m per year for the next 6 years. All of these needs and the costs are detailed in the first-ever MTA Capital Needs Inventory, available online here.

Investing in housing and mobility options are key to success for Maryland – these two bills are some of my top priorities this session. Look for more updates on Facebook and Twitter! And join me at Transit Caucus Night this Wednesday to get more involved! February 12, 2020 from 6-8PM in the House of Delegates. RSVP HERE / Facebook event here.

Coming up next…

I will continue preparing for the six hearings that I have in the next two weeks and working with individuals and groups to come support these pieces of legislation. These six bills focus on reducing plastic pollution (#BantheBag), strengthening our Public Information Act; funding community development programs in Baltimore and around the state; protecting juveniles’ civil rights; granting student athletes the right to use their name, image, and likeness; and enhancing environmental enforcement.

All bill hearings are open to the public – if you are interested in attending a hearing or providing written support for any of my bills, please let me know!

In Baltimore

The Census! 

The 2020 Census count begins in April! We want to make sure that Everyone Counts. Accurate census numbers impact funding and representation for Baltimore. It is important that everyone participates in the Census. For more information on the Census, click HERE. To get involved or check out upcoming events related to the Census, click HERE.


To follow Maryland Census 2020 on Twitter and Facebook – Follow @MdCensus2020 and like @MdCensus2020 – to stay in touch with Maryland’s Census 2020 complete count efforts. Join the conversation by using hashtag #2020MDCensus on Facebook and on Twitter.

TEAM 46 Annual Town Hall

Please join us for our Annual Town Hall – this year on Saturday, February 22 from 11:30-1:00 p.m. at the National Federation of the Blind! Hope to see you then! Click HERE to RSVP

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In the News

MD Women Lead on Climate Change Resiliency: I was very proud to join four other women lawmakers in announcing a package of five climate resilience bills. My environmental transparency bill will empower normal citizens in the process of preparing for and combating the acute effects of our changing climate change. It’s great to be working with Senator Sarah Elfreth, Delegate Courtney Watson, and Senator Katie Fry Hester and more on legislation to prevent the worst effects of climate change in Maryland, support our communities, and ensure we are building resilient and healthy neighborhoods!

Strengthen our Public Information Act! The Baltimore Sun this week covered my proposed legislation to rectify the sorry state of public information requests and hold our state institutions more accountable. The Sun’s editorial board recommends my legislation.

The Path to Zero Waste is an initiative of several bills, including the Plastics & Packaging Reduction Act (the plastic bag ban), was in the news last week: WBAL reported on our goal to move Maryland toward zero waste. Our state relies on landfills and incinerators to dispose of our trash, and we need to be moving toward reducing plastic trash that we can’t recycle or compost and building out our capacity to compost (which is less expensive for local governments & can be a moneymaker).