Dear Neighbors and Friends - The session is moving quickly, as we are nearly halfway done! Our office, as always, is excited to be sharing new updates with you regarding legislation, veto overrides, and more. There is also quite a bit of state and local news, especially regarding the recent enactment of the Maryland RELIEF Act by Governor Hogan. On February 11th, Governor Hogan announced that the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) would be providing up to 1 million COVID-19 tests for schools. Additionally, the MDH will begin allowing limited visitation at hospitals and nursing homes across the state as early as March 1st. Governor Hogan also shared the news last week that the state has officially reached the milestone of administering 1 million COVID-19 vaccines. This is significant progress towards ending this pandemic and returning to a sense of normal. The enactment of the Maryland RELIEF Act last week is a much-needed step towards our recovery as a state from the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation will help both Marylanders with direct stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits, as well as small businesses with tax credits and COVID-19 loan and grant forgiveness. Later on in this newsletter, we provide a full explanation of what the Maryland RELIEF Act entails, as well as additional resources, such as how to check the status of your state stimulus check. In local news, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) released their reopening plan last week. This plan focuses on a hybrid model, with students splitting between virtual learning a majority of the time and in-person instruction two days a week. Families will be able to opt-in to this model, choosing whether or not to send children to school or continue the distanced learning style. This plan is set to go into effect on April 8th for students in special education, Pre-K through 6th grade, and 12th grade, and on April 15th for middle and high school students. Lastly, I am excited to announce that our annual delegate’s scholarship is now live! If you or someone you know is applying to or currently attending any college/trade school in Maryland, lives in District 22, and has at least a 2.5 GPA, then be sure to check out the application form later in this newsletter. For accessibility, there is both an English and Spanish version of this form! I am very much looking forward to the second half of the session, as we have so much more left to accomplish. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office. - Nicole
I wanted to be sure to share a status update on each of the bills that I am sponsoring this legislative session:
House Bill 63: State Finance - Prohibited Appropriations - MAGLEV
- This bill completed its hearing in the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 12th.
House Bill 294: Business Occupations and Professions - Architects - Scope of Licensure
- This bill was passed in the House and is now heading to the Senate.
House Bill 411: Criminal Law - Law Enforcement - Prohibition on Sexual Activity
- This bill was just voted out of the Judiciary Committee, and will soon be heard on the House floor.
House Bill 697: Residential Property - Eviction Proceedings - Shielding of Court Records
- This bill completed its hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 17th and is currently awaiting a vote.
House Bill 234: Criminal Law - Harm to Service Animals
- This bill completed its hearing in the House Judiciary Committee and is currently awaiting a vote.
House Bill 1020: Election Law - Curbside Voting - Establishment
- This bill will be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on March 9th.
The Maryland RELIEF Act
Above all else, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the critical importance of federal, state, and local government agencies working together to aid the public in a time of crisis. The Maryland RELIEF Act, signed just last week by Governor Hogan and supported by legislators from both sides in the Maryland General Assembly, will provide the necessary relief to those suffering from the economic fallout of this virus. Families and small business owners will benefit from the over $1.5 billion that is being set aside by this legislation. Here are some specifics on what is a part of Maryland's RELIEF Act: Direct Stimulus Payments Low- to moderate-income who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit are eligible for immediate stimulus payments. These will total $500 for families and $300 for individuals. Together, over $178 million in relief will be provided to 400,000 Marylanders. To see if you are eligible for relief, please click here. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) The legislation will increase the refundable EITC by 45% for families and by 100% for individuals. It will also boost the EITC for those 400,000 Marylanders by $478 million during the next three years. Unemployment Support This legislation includes provisions to repeal all state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits from 2020 and 2021. This will help Marylanders save over $400 million over the next two tax seasons. Tax Credits for Small Businesses Close to $200 million will be set aside for small businesses in the form of sales tax credits. These credits will be for up to $3,000 per month for three months, and will directly benefit over 55,000 small businesses. Tax Relief for Small Businesses The RELIEF Act will work with an executive order previously signed by Governor Hogan in December 2020 to prevent major increases in unemployment taxes for small businesses. This legislation will also allow small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to defer unemployment insurance tax payments to January 2022.
Delegate Williams' Office Hours
I am continuing to hold office hours each Friday from 12 PM to 1 PM. If you would like to sign up for a time slot, please click here. Our office is excited to be able to sit down with residents to hear your concerns and ways to best help our community!
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
Prince George’s County has created a new resource page regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. General information, as well as a timetable of vaccine distribution, can be found here. Keep in mind the timeline is dependent on the supply of vaccines that is received. To fill out the pre-registration form to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Prince George’s County, please click here. For those who pre-register, you will receive a phone call or an email message once additional appointments become available. There is additional availability for COVID-19 vaccinations at the Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center for those eligible under Phases 1A and 1B. Fill out this vaccine interest form to be put on a notification list there. CVS is also administering vaccines in 11 states across the country, including Maryland. For more specific details, as well as information on how you can register to receive one, please click here.
District 22 Delegate Scholarship
Our office is now accepting scholarship applications for the 2021-2022 academic year. You are eligible for this scholarship if you are applying to or currently attending a college or trade school in Maryland, live in District 22, and have at least a 2.5 GPA. The application deadline for this scholarship is April 5th, 2021. For the application in English, please click here. For the application in Spanish, please click here.
Extended Open Enrollment Period
The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is holding an extended open enrollment period for health insurance coverage in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The period is now extended until March 15th, with coverage beginning March 1st. For more information and to enroll, click here.
Black History Month
The Greenbelt Black History and Culture Committee has planned a great lineup of events for Black History Month to celebrate the Black community and experience. To view a list of these events, please click here. The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) has a series of virtual programs including an online exhibition and a teen art contest. You can access all of their virtual events and online programs here.
MAGLEV Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
The DEIS for the MAGLEV project is currently available, with a 90-day formal comment period open from now until April 22nd, 2021. To make comments, please click here. Senator Chris Van Hollen, as well as Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown, recently sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Department of Transportation requesting an extension on the MAGLEV DEIS review period. In addition, the Prince George's County House Delegation has sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maryland Transit Administration requesting the same extension. The Prince George's County Council recently requested six months to comment on the environmental impact of a hypothetical MAGLEV train. To read more about this, click here.
BGE Energizing Small Business Grants Program
Maryland-based small businesses have an opportunity to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to help with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility requirements include having between two and 25 employees, less than $7 million in annual revenue, an obvious need for financial support, a plan on how funds would be used and is in good standing with the state of Maryland. The first round of applications runs between January 20th and March 3rd, 2021. Grant recipients will be selected via panel and notified within 30 days of the close of the first round. For more information, please click here.
Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS)
PGCPS has recently released its full reopening plan for the upcoming months. To view the full report, along with the guidelines schools will be following to stay safe during COVID-19, please click here. PGCPS has started Phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes educators and support staff. PGCPS in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente will facilitate a vaccination program for all employees. To read more, click here. PGCPS has completed its survey that assessed community support for School Resource Officers (SROs), receiving over 13,000 responses. To view a full report of their findings, please click here.
You can access the PGCPS online database that tracks building closures related to COVID-19. This database is updated frequently and provides timely and relevant information for your family. To access the databases, click here. For other information regarding reopening plans, click here.
Maryland COVID-19 Contact Tracing App
The state of Maryland is using a COVID-19 contact tracing app to better and more quickly notify people if they have been exposed to the virus. For more information on the app, please click here.
You can contact your utility company today to set up a payment plan or request energy assistance funds. Click here for more information on how to obtain help with your utilities.
Prince George's County Free COVID-19 Testing Sites
The Prince George’s County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 tests for people with or without symptoms. All you need is a form of identification to get tested at the following facilities: First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville 6201 Belcrest Road, Hyattsville MD 20782 (9 AM - 3 PM; Monday, Thursday, and Saturday) Adventist Medical Group Primary Care 10709 MD-210 Suite D, Fort Washington, MD 20744 (7:30 AM - 11:30 AM; Monday, Tuesday, and Friday) There are also test sites operated by private entities such as some CVS locations. Click here to find a test site near you.
Distance Learning for Students
PGCPS continues to cover the cost of the Comcast Internet Essentials program, which provides affordable high-speed internet at home, for families eligible for free and reduced-price meals (FARMS). The school system will also help non-FARMS families obtain a Comcast or Verizon hotspot for home internet access. To request a hotspot, please call our Parent Center Hotline at 240-696-3315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is continuing to have problems, please let my office know. Please use this Unemployment Insurance Tracker Form or contact my office directly for additional assistance. To directly access the BEACON One-Stop site to file an unemployment claim, visit https://beacon.labor.maryland.gov/claimant/.
Food Distribution Sites and Resources
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several food pantries have been set up throughout the county and in neighboring jurisdictions. Enter your zip code or address to search for the food pantry nearest you. SNAP Assistance SNAP is approved in Maryland for online grocery purchases for delivery or pickup. Walmart, Amazon and ShopRight are among the participating retailers. Call Maryland Hunger Solutions at 866-821-5552 for assistance and questions related to SNAP applications. They can assist with completing and submitting SNAP applications over the phone, submit any changes to your active SNAP case, answer questions about your benefits, and direct you to additional food resources.
County and State COVID-19 Resources
The COVID-19 Hotline If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Prince George’s County Health Department Coronavirus hotline at (301) 883-6627 from 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM to receive updated information about the coronavirus disease. Please contact 911 for medical emergencies only. 24/7 COVID-19 Prevention Hotline The Maryland State Police have expanded their 24/7 COVID-19 Prevention Hotline. Community members are encouraged to report public health violations through the email linked above, or by calling (833) 979-2266. Nonprofit Resources Listing of resources and grants specifically for nonprofit organizations in the County. Childcare for Essential Employees and Employees Returning to Work Child care centers are opening up throughout the State if you are returning back to work and need child care. To keep track of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the county please click here.