Maryland Advocates COVID State Recommendation

Executive Summary

Full letter available here. Press release available here.

April 13, 2020

More than 40 nonprofit organizations and unions, including CASA, write to Governor Hogan, Speaker Jones, President Ferguson, and Members of the Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup, profoundly concerned for families that are most vulnerable during this uncertain time. We now call on our state leaders to enact the recommendations included in our letter as soon as possible. We ask that these be implemented by whatever means necessary including 1) the safe reconvencing of a special legislative session to take legislative action or 2) the carrying out of additional executive orders.

The topics addressed in our letter are the following:

Expansion of healthcare access to all affected by the pandemic

With layoffs occurring as a direct response to COVID-19, many families with work-based health insurance are uninsured or underinsured. They join hundreds of thousands of other Marylanders who already lack access to health insurance, exacerbating a health care system that particularly leaves black, brown, and low-income communities behind. Policymakers must ensure that all COVID-19 testing and treatment is free and readily available to all and take additional steps to preserve and expand access to health care. All essential businesses and agencies should be required to take adequate precautions and provide needed equipment to keep all workers safe.

Expansion of protections for workers

Ensure all workers can take time off work when they are sick, without losing income or putting their jobs at risk. Existing state and federal rules for paid leave exclude far too many workers. This is a public health concern at any time, but especially in the face of a pandemic.
Ensure state investment in private businesses protects jobs. State assistance going to businesses should be prioritized to help businesses that are using the unemployment insurance work-sharing program and those that are retaining staff or intend to reinstate them.
Use state funds to fill gaps in unemployment insurance.

Ensure housing justice from landlords and banks

Ensure housing security and stability for renters and homeowners. The moratorium on evictions is a good starting place, but preventing a spike in evictions and homelessness following the end of the state of emergency will require a number of additional steps, including financial assistance to households and landlords, prohibiting late and collection fees, and requiring banks and landlords to develop a three-year repayment plan.
Preserve family income supports. Suspend all reductions, terminations, collections of overpayments, and redeterminations for all need-based assistance programs. Place a moratorium on all job search requirements for these programs.

Robust reduction of incarceration

There are already reports of coronavirus spreading in Maryland prisons. To avoid making the problem worse: reduce police presence and unnecessary arrests, perform an individualized assessment of detainees to release those who are at high risk for the virus and those who have sentences less than 12 months, and provide additional sanitation products and protective equipment for staff and incarcerated individuals.

Expansion of funding, outreach, and shelter for homeless populations

Rapidly rehouse our vulnerable neighbors who frequent emergency shelters and homeless encampments in hotel rooms, permanent housing, and permanent supportive housing.

Support for our public school teachers, staff, and students

With students and families navigating distance learning during this uncertain time, inequities that existed before the COVID-19 crisis have not only persisted but have expanded. The state should ensure equal access to materials, including technology and internet access, and provide supportive services to students and parents who need them.

Upholding fair elections

As we transition to primarily voting by mail, the state must ensure all voters receive a multi-lingual ballot with prepaid return postage and take additional steps to ensure access for voters who face additional barriers.

Prevention of persisting discrimination.

Ensure the collection and public reporting of COVID-19 related data by race and ethnicity to support informed decision-making. And take additional steps to investigate and punish hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Emergency relief funds to assist struggling Marylanders and assist with forestalling or anticipating a catastrophic recession

While the federal government has established relief funds to support small businesses and families, unfortunately many low-wage residents will not be able to access these funds because of immigration restrictions or ineligibility for the specific benefit programs being augmented. We ask that the state establish an emergency fund to assist residents with payments critical to health, housing, and work connectivity, including car payments, cellphone, and internet.

Signed By:
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 32BJ SEIU, Advocates for Children and Youth, AFSCME Maryland Council 3, Bend the Arc Jewish Action – Prince George’s County, CASA, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Community Justice, Concerned Taxpayers, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces, Doctors for Camp Closure, Franciscan Action Network, Greenbelt People Power, Howard County Indivisibles, Hyattsville Mennonite Church, IMPACT Silver Spring, Indivisibile Howard County, Jews United for Justice, Job Opportunities Task Force, LiUNA Local 11, Maryland Center on Economic Policy, McFarland & Associates, Inc., Montgomery County Racial Equity Network, Muslim Public Affairs Council, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, One Fair Wage, Our Revolution – Howard County, Peace and Justice Coalition of Prince George’s County, Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools, Progressive Maryland, Progressive Neighbors Steering Committee, Public Justice Center, Racial Justice NOW! DMV, RISE Coalition of Western Maryland, Sanctuary DMV, SEIU Local 500, Showing Up for Racial Justice Montgomery County, Silver Spring Justice Coalition, Sisterhood of Salam Shalom Takoma Park/Silver Spring, Takoma Park Mobilization, The Pluralism Project, Transit Immigrant Assistance Silver Spring, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, UNITE HERE Local 7, UNITE HERE Local 25, Young People for Progress