Gov. Larry Hogan announced legislation Monday that would provide more than $1 billion in economic relief to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and he called on state lawmakers to quickly pass it once session starts Wednesday.
The bill would provide $267 million in direct payments to Marylanders who file for the Earned Income Tax Credit: $750 for families, $450 for individuals. Those payments would be for low-income families and individuals throughout the state.
No applications are necessary, and the relief would benefit more than 400,000 Marylanders, Hogan (R) said. The governor added the legislation would provide $300 million in tax relief, including relief for small business by letting them keep up to $12,000 in sales tax over the next four months.
Hogan also said those receiving unemployment benefits will have taxes on that income repealed as long as the state legislature passes the bill. That would account for $180 million, and the relief for businesses would be $300 million.
“We look forward to working with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle to pass this emergency legislation,” Hogan said. “I cannot imagine anything that could possibly be more important for the legislature to pass.”
Hogan said the money would come out of prior actions of the Board of Public Works, which consists of him, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, along with money from reserve funds and $100 million from the Rainy Day Fund.
Franchot has called on the governor to send out $2,000 checks using money from the Rainy Day Fund to help Marylanders most in need, but Hogan said he was following guidance from the state’s Spending Affordability Committee, which consists of state senators and delegates.
“[Franchot] was talking about draining the entire Rainy Day Fund of the state ... We want to maintain our triple-A bond rating, and we believe this is getting more money in the hands of the people that need it and getting it out much faster without taking irresponsible action,” Hogan said.
Along with his proposed legislation, Hogan also started to describe how the relief money from Congress’ second coronavirus relief bill would be distributed.
The governor said $10 billion from the bill will be used for Paycheck Protection Program funding, $4 billion for individuals, including unemployment and SNAP benefits, and another $7 billion for businesses, which includes more funds for the Paycheck Protection Program.
Another $1.2 billion will be used for education, $400 million for rental assistance, $250 million for transportation and $130 million for child care.
“This is critical, much-needed funding, and once we receive all the federal guidance which is required, we will work to get these funds out the door as quickly as possible,” Hogan said.
Rick Weldon, president and CEO of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, said he supports multiple aspects of the proposed legislation, including the repeal of sales tax and checks for those who file using the earned income tax credit.
He added, however, that it is still uncertain whether lawmakers will quickly take up and pass the legislation beginning Wednesday.
“I would hope that behind his public statements is a ton of legislative work with the [statehouse] leadership or the staff of leadership … but overall, the bill is great,” Weldon said.
He said it would be important for all small businesses, but especially event planners, DJs, florists and other similar professions that typically rely on mass gatherings.
Dominique Mouton, co-owner of Maryland Event Rentals in Frederick, said he’s concerned about the coming months, especially if vaccine distribution doesn’t ramp up and prevent the virus from continuing to spread.
He estimates doing roughly 30 percent of the sales in 2020 compared to what he did in 2019. And although he got some money from the Paycheck Protection Program from the CARES Act, he couldn’t use all of it since business was slow.
Mouton said some industries — construction, the trades and similar professions — haven’t been as impacted as the service and hospitality industries.
“Anybody in [the] service [industry], that’s who is suffering the most right now, and it’s been nine, 10 months … any help will really be appreciated from the federal and state government,” Mouton said.