Groups make recommendations; urge action to protect workers, homes, and healthcare

Contact: Jossie Flor Sapunar, CASA, 240-706-2624; Tom Waldron, 410-350-6637

April 13, 2020 HYATTSVILLE, MD – Advocacy organizations from across Maryland, including non-profits and labor unions, today sent a broad policy agenda to Governor Larry Hogan, House Speaker Adrienne Jones, and Senate President Bill Ferguson to provide relief and recovery for working families during the COVID-19 outbreak and its aftermath. Executive summary here. Full letter here.

In the agenda, organizations identify priority actions to expand existing healthcare and childcare programs, provide emergency relief, and expand protections for workers who are experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic. The policy prescriptions were created by a broad ad-hoc coalition, bringing legal, human service, workforce, and advocacy expertise together to inform elected leaders on behalf of those they serve and all Marylanders.

“[W]orkers across the state have risked their health and safety to care for patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings, watch over our children, stock our grocery stores, clean critical businesses, and keep our communities functioning,” the letter reads in part. “Our government must implement every possible measure to protect them as well as the millions of Marylanders confronting extreme financial hardship.”

“It is the responsibility of our Maryland elected officials to care for those who live in their districts, and that is doubly true for Marylanders who live in the margins,” said Gustavo Torres, CASA Executive Director. “Ignoring us now exposes our communities to the worst aspects of this pandemic. It might as well be a death sentence.”

“The current health emergency has made it even more clear how much our economy depends on the multitudes of low-wage workers now deemed essential,” said Benjamin Orr, executive director of Maryland Center on Economic Policy. “To restart our economy, policymakers must ensure that all Marylanders are able to afford their basic living expenses, access the health care they need, and participate in our democracy. And we must ensure the government responses don’t make the problem worse by leaving out those already facing the greater barriers to opportunity – like Marylanders of color, immigrants, and people with little or no income.”

“This crisis underlines what we already know – too many Marylanders are living too close to disaster every day, barely making enough to survive,” said Caryn York, chief operating officer of the Job Opportunities Task Force. “We’re calling on our leaders to act for our residents now to stop debt collections and ensure we can remain in our homes with life-essential utilities, to protect our incarcerated populations, and to work with us to recover and reform the systems that make every day a struggle for working people.”

“My family and I would not know what to do if any of us had to go to the doctor during this pandemic,” said Nilsie, a CASA member and Maryland resident. Due to security reasons, her last name has been withheld. “We are concerned not only that our information will be shared with ICE, but also that hospital bills will follow. My husband lost his job and we don’t know how we are going to pay rent. Our immigrant community has always lived in fear, but now people are panicking over possibly catching the virus. Plus, many of my neighbors only use their grandmother’s traditional remedies, because fear overcomes common sense in times of crisis like this.”

The letter also calls on legislators and the governor to come back for a special session of the Maryland General Assembly whether virtually or in-person. In the meantime, advocates urge support for public schools and to reduce incarceration to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It also asks for concrete plans to protect homeowners from foreclosure and help tenants with rent payments. The groups are also demanding action to make elections as accessible as possible and ensure election integrity during this crisis. Similar letters have been sent by the ad-hoc coalition to the county executives of Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and have resulted in meetings with those elected officials, council members, and other county leadership to discuss how advocates can work with elected leaders to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic.

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