Maryland passed a sweeping state stimulus package of roughly $1.2 billion on Friday, including an anti-poverty measure that will send cash payments to the state’s poorest residents for the next three years.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) promised to sign the emergency legislation, which he has called his top legislative priority of the year.
On bipartisan votes in both chambers, the General Assembly swiftly enacted the coronavirus relief package offered by Hogan last month, after scaling back tax breaks for wealthier households and businesses.
“It will help Marylanders barely hanging on right now as we work to bring this global pandemic to an end,” Hogan said in a statement after the bill passed.
Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, dropped an effort to include benefits for immigrants without social security numbers, who have weathered the pandemic without qualifying for unemployment or federal aid checks.
Hogan said including those residents would “jeopardize” his support.
But in a joint statement on Friday afternoon, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) vowed to expand benefits for undocumented workers and green-card holders in separate legislation they said the General Assembly will pass next week.
“Every taxpaying Marylander deserves to access this benefit,” Jones and Ferguson said of the stimulus package. “No Marylander deserves to wonder where their next meal will come from, how to buy their child’s diapers, or how to pay for life saving medicine — especially when they go to work every single day.”
Such a plan could provoke Hogan’s veto.
The centerpiece of the plan passed Friday will immediately send checks of up to $500 to Maryland’s poorest families and $300 to its poorest single filers. It will then augment those payments for three years with big cash refunds after people file their tax returns. Noncitizens don’t qualify for those benefits under existing laws.
For a family with two children that earns $25,000 a year, that would mean $1,100 in additional payments each year for the next three years.
The plan expands the value of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to the most generous in the country. Anyone who qualifies for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit will be eligible for the stimulus check and its more lucrative benefit for the next three years. Last year, 400,000 households filed for the credit, though analysts expect many more were eligible.
“This is a game-changer for people,” said House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery).
Other parts of the package would offer up to $9,000 in tax relief for small businesses and send $1,000 checks to people with unemployment claims in limbo. It cuts the tax burden for middle- and lower-income people who have been on unemployment, and creates grants for an array of industries that have struggled during the pandemic.
Sen. Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard), chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, told his colleagues that the measure is “a lot more generous” than the version the Senate had passed last week.
“This is really going to help working citizens,” he said.
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