State announces plan for $3.9B in federal funds for pandemic initiatives

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Steve Bohnel, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
·2 min read
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Mar. 31—State leaders announced Wednesday another $3.9 billion in federal funding to help handle various agencies and departments in Maryland impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was joined by Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore) and House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County), who said the money is thanks to the American Rescue Plan — the coronavirus relief bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.

The governor said $1.1 billion will go to the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to help stabilize tax rates on unemployment insurance for businesses in 2022 and 2023. Another $800 million will go to economic relief programs and stimulus to help Marylanders and businesses most in need, and $600 million will be sent to the state's schools for reopening costs and also to address long-term learning loss.

Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick), chair of the Frederick County delegation, said in an email she looks forward to expediting the money for unemployment insurance, reopening schools, improving broadband, important transportation projects and other needs.

"I am glad to see that we have bipartisan agreement on how to utilize funding from the American Rescue Plan Act," Lewis Young wrote.

Ferguson highlighted another $300 million to be used for expanding broadband in the state, especially in rural areas. Ultimately, the money should help those in the state that need it most, he said.

"Our livelihood, opportunities for learning and safely being able to socialize should never have been about luck or ZIP code," Ferguson said. "For far too many Marylanders, this transition has not been easy and has not been possible, not to any fault of individual Marylanders or lack of desire or initiative, but because the technical infrastructure, knowledge and access was simply not available."

He and Jones thanked David Brinkley, the state's secretary of budget and management, along with Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard) and Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), chairs of the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations committees, respectively, for their collaboration in crafting the plan for the federal dollars.

Jones also highlighted $500 million that will be used for infrastructure and transit improvements, noting money was going to every county and Baltimore city for playgrounds and park projects. Outdoor activities "have been a lifeline" for many Marylanders during the pandemic, she said.

Another $300 million will be allocated to utility assistance and cash assistance programs, along with temporary disability insurance payments. The final $200 million is split between employment training and apprenticeships and state employees.

"With today's announcement, Maryland has once again shown the nation that people from different parties can still come together, and we can put the people's priorities first, and that we can deliver real bipartisan, common-sense solutions to the serious problems that face us," Hogan said.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel