Advertisement
Op-ed

While nonprofits have long helped Maryland, state government has not always returned the favor | GUEST COMMENTARY

Gubernatorial candidates are Dan Cox, left, and Wes Moore, right.

Dear candidates for Maryland governor,

In January, one of you will be Maryland’s new governor.

Advertisement

A just society in Maryland, and our future growth, well-being and economic prosperity can only be assured when everyone of all backgrounds, with consideration to race, religion, socio-economic background, gender identity, location, or disability, can share fairly in a prosperous and inclusive economy, without race-based or other structural barriers that impede them.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing health and economic hardships it has triggered, continue to demand changes in public policies to advance social justice and equity, and to overcome the impacts of systemic racism. Issues of public health, access to care, jobs and income supports to sustain all families, basic food and nutrition, and housing have reached crisis stage for many in Maryland. Maryland’s 31,000-plus nonprofit organizations will be valuable partners with your administration as you seek to help Maryland’s people, families, and communities. These nonprofit organizations serve as voices for vulnerable communities.

Advertisement

Nonprofits are making progress in every part of Maryland to improve health, housing, food, education, employment, the arts, environmental quality, recreation and many other areas. Employing 12.9% of the private workforce, they are poised to be your most effective partners in meeting basic needs, fighting inequity, and making Maryland a great place to live and visit.

Yet, state government has not always been a very effective partner for nonprofits, and we hope that you will change that.

The next administration’s appointments and staffing decisions should reflect the full diversity of Maryland’s population. State programs and services should be readily available to all our residents. Initiatives such as universal language and disability access are essential to ensuring all residents have equal opportunities.

Over the last 20 years, the state government workforce has eroded. Since the onset of the COVID pandemic it’s gotten worse. Job vacancies have spiked, and recruitment and retention have cratered, causing harmful bottlenecks and gaps. State agencies on the front lines of service delivery are not able to accomplish their basic functions within reasonable time frames. These include the basic activities of agencies — serving customers, conducting inspections, operating government facilities and so on. It also includes the administrative work essential to a functioning enterprise: paying invoices, procuring services and goods, or responding to complaints and requests. We ask your administration to act with urgency to restore state government’s ability to function at the level of effectiveness that Marylanders deserve. This would address a lot of serious problems that both ordinary citizens and nonprofits in the state face daily.

State government is routinely missing opportunities and leaving funding and other resources untapped due to staffing shortages and unnecessary and costly red tape. The legislature created the Maryland Efficient Grant Application (“MEGA”) Council in 2020. Since then, the MEGA Council’s work has been hampered by the lack of resources to support the project in the Governor’s Grants Office. The next administration should add staff at the Governor’s Grants Office and leverage the many federal funding opportunities that are passing us by due to lack of staff, and should require all state agencies to manage nonprofit grants and contracts in a uniform, modern, and customer-friendly manner.

We hope your administration will designate a statewide nonprofit entity to efficiently manage contracts and grants for all state and local agencies in Maryland. And it should initiate a program of grants for general operating support for small and mid-sized nonprofits.

Especially since the pandemic, nonprofit service providers have been struggling to support and sustain their workforce in the face of insufficient funds and low rates. These providers play a crucial role in supporting those with disabilities, behavioral and mental health, child care, and senior services. As providers of many state-funded services nonprofits have the unique ability to build trust and connect with communities to address their needs. Adequate funding is imperative to ensure that these organizations can attract and support specialized positions to advance their mission.

The next administration should designate a high-level position in the governor’s office to be a liaison for the nonprofit community as part of their official duties. This liaison can aid in providing a line of communication and troubleshooting to allow increased insight into the needs of the vulnerable communities that these organizations serve.

Advertisement

Thank you for stepping up to compete for the highest office in our state. We look forward to working with you to support amazing people, organizations and businesses, communities, attractions and natural beauty that Maryland has to offer.

Heather Iliff (ceo@mdnonprofit.org) is president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits.


Advertisement