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Maryland needs the American Rescue Plan | COMMENTARY

The last year has been an extraordinarily challenging time for our state. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout have wreaked devastating tolls on our families, businesses and local governments. But, as always, Maryland has risen to the moment: Marylanders from east to west have stepped up in this time of crisis, and, as those fortunate to serve this extraordinary state, we have an obligation to do the same. That’s why Maryland Democrats at the state and national level have taken decisive steps to stem the pandemic and provide aid directly to those in need.

In the Maryland General Assembly, we’ve taken swift, bold action to address these crises with the RELIEF Act; which sent direct payments to low-income families, provided assistance to small businesses, and gave tax relief to those receiving unemployment insurance. But let’s be clear, while this package is critically important, it’s only a first step. In order to fully recover from the pandemic, put Marylanders back to work and build our state back better — we need sweeping federal aid.

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President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is just that. The comprehensive COVID-19 package will deliver direct relief to working families and give Marylanders the resources they need to fight the virus. The package includes $1,400 direct relief checks to Marylanders, enhanced unemployment benefits and a massive expansion of the child tax credit. The American Rescue Plan will also directly support our communities, investing $170 billion in K-12 schools and higher education, along with $350 billion in support in local governments like the ones across our state who are struggling to balance their budgets and make ends meet.

Much like the RELIEF Act — which passed with broad bipartisan support — this is not a red or blue issue. There should be nothing partisan about helping families, businesses, states, cities, towns and a nation in crisis. Americans and Marylanders agree, it’s why a recent poll found 76% of voters support the American Rescue Plan, including 70% of independents and more than 50% of Republicans. It’s also supported by 64% of small business owners, one of the groups most in need of aid.

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This urgent need to help our small businesses was one of the key aspects for the bipartisan consensus around the RELIEF Act; they’re the cornerstone of our communities and the bedrock of our economy. When small businesses thrive, Maryland and its people thrive. That’s why it’s so crucially important that President Biden’s American Rescue plan will invest in our small business by replenishing the successful Paycheck Protection Program and by providing $25 billion in aid directly to restaurants and bars. These funds will keep Marylanders employed and the doors of Main Street open.

The president and congressional Democrats understand that the economic crisis and the pandemic are inherently intertwined. We cannot solve one issue before resolving the other. That’s why the American Rescue Plan includes aid to take on the virus directly, with $160 billion for a national vaccine program, more than 10 billion for distribution, and an additional $50 billion for expanded testing. As we work to get Marylanders vaccinated and begin to reopen our state safely, there could be nothing more important than these efforts.

We’re deeply grateful to the U.S. House Democrats — especially Maryland’s seven Democratic Representatives — who passed the American Rescue Plan out of the House and to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who has championed the package. Their decisive, bold and deliberative action will get shots into people’s arms, aid to small businesses and cash into the pockets of Marylanders who need it.

Now, as the American Rescue Plan moves to the Senate, it is once again championed by Maryland Democrats. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen have spoken repeatedly and emphatically about the necessity of this package. We are fortunate to be represented by them and are deeply appreciative of their hard work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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We know these Democrats; we’ve served with many of them in the Maryland General Assembly. They understand the issues that Marylanders face and the urgency with which they need to address them. They care about our communities, our people and our state — thanks to their strong leadership, and the actions of President Biden, more help is on the way.

Adrienne A. Jones (adrienne.jones@house.state.md.us) is a Democrat and the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, where she represents District 10 in Baltimore County. William C. Ferguson (bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us) is a Democrat and the president of the Maryland Senate, where he represents District 46 in Baltimore City.

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