The House Ways and Means Committee nevertheless voted to amend the legislation to include noncitizens who pay income taxes. The Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus had pushed for that change and enlisted the support of the Legislative Black Caucus.
Hours before the committee voted, a top aide to Hogan told the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus that expanding eligibility for the aid could jeopardize the legislation.
Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said the message from chief legislative officer Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. was that the caucus could be “sacrificing the $5 million in the bill for minority businesses.”
“I find it appalling that he would try to pit one item over another,” said Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s), the caucus chair.
The stimulus package is Hogan’s top legislative priority. His $1 billion proposal would provide checks of up to $750 to many families who qualify for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. The proposal also included sales tax breaks of up to $12,000 for small businesses and other tax reprieves designed to help keep companies afloat.
Maryland’s top legislative leaders privately discussed their own stimulus ideas for weeks. But they did not reach a consensus on how big a package should be or who would be eligible before the start of the General Assembly session last month.
The Senate has added roughly $520 million worth of targeted aid to Hogan’s package, including $1,000 checks for people with unemployment claims in limbo, benefits for people on disability, money for food banks, cash assistance for utility bills and an array of aid for transportation, small businesses and nonprofit groups.
A House committee took the proposal further this week, replacing Hogan’s $750 payments to 400,000 poor families with a three-year anti-poverty plan that would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Instead of two payments totaling $750, the House plan would give poor families an initial $500 check and then a larger payment once they file their taxes.
For a family with two children with income of $25,000 a year, that would amount to an extra $1,100 annually for the next three years. People without children would also qualify for the larger benefit, which would be the most generous state Earned Income Tax Credit in the country, according to legislative staff.
House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) called it a “game-changing” policy, potentially lifting tens of thousands of families out of poverty.
On Thursday, several members of the immigrant advocacy group CASA demonstrated outside of the State House to urge the House of Delegates to include tax-paying undocumented immigrants and green-card holders in the bill.
About 86,000 such people filed tax returns in 2019 so far, using tax identification numbers instead of Social Security numbers. While they are not eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a House staff member estimated that tens of thousands have incomes low enough that they would qualify for the stimulus aid if they were eligible.
The House delayed plans to consider the stimulus bill from Thursday until Friday.
While Hogan said stimulus checks for undocumented workers, and the House’s other changes, would be a dealbreaker for him, key Senate leaders have not publicly said whether they would accept the changes or not.