Senate unanimously passes $1.5B RELIEF Act with amendments

The Senate unanimously passed the $1.5 billion COVID-19 Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs and Families (RELIEF) Act Friday. The bill was originally proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan as a $1 billion package. The Senate tacked on an additional $520 million of relief with its Maryland Senate Recovery Now Amendment.

 

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The Senate amendment includes $45 million for health-related assistance, including $20 million for “mobile crisis and stand-alone walk-in” services for mental health and substance abuse issues. The amendment also includes $10 million for grants to help counties with the vaccination process. Of that total, $14 million is earmarked for the Maryland Community Health Resource Commission to reduce health disparities, improve health outcomes, improve access to primary care, promote prevention services and reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and re-admissions.

 

Office of Gov. Larry Hogan

 

Governor Larry Hogan thanked the Senate for its unanimous approval with the following statement:

“This is what effective and bipartisan leadership looks like. Now I urge the House to follow suit in short order. With so many fighting just to hang on in this unprecedented crisis, Marylanders simply cannot afford to wait. Every day that goes by without passing this emergency legislation means more struggling families and small businesses will suffer. This must continue to be the most important priority of the legislative session.”

The original bill, SB 496, focused on stimulus payment, unemployment insurance tax relief and sales tax credits for small businesses. However, the state will use funds from the federal COVID-19 relief bill to provide $336 million for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and $75 million for vaccination programs.

The RELIEF Act will now be heard in the House of Delegates. If there are any differences between the two versions they will be worked out in committee.