Gov. Martin O'Malley and state lawmakers for the first time dipped into a $100 million fund set aside to deal with the impact of the federal sequester, lessening the blow of automatic federal spending cuts on the state's poor and elderly.
O'Malley announced Wednesday that a legislative committee approved his request to spend $9 million on programs that used to be paid for by the federal government, including meals for senior citizens and early childhood education for low-income children.
Congress has been gridlocked on resolving automatic spending cuts, leaving states with budget holes. O'Malley said "the job-killing cuts are threatening our economic progress in Maryland and putting vulnerable Marylanders at risk."
The Maryland General Assembly's presiding officers and a joint committee of lawmakers on Aug. 19 approved paying for some programs cut by the sequestration. On Wednesday, they called on Congress to resolve the dispute.
"We will continue to work together and be responsible at the state level, but it is time for the federal government to do the same," Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said in a statement.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch said the cuts disproportionately hurt the state's most vulnerable, adding, "Congress's continued inaction on sequestration is hammering state budgets and service delivery to those who need it most."
The money will pay for about 500 children in Head State programs, drug abuse and prevention programs, health screening, Meals on Wheels programs, job training and adult education courses, O'Malley said in a statement.
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