May 15, 2020

Throughout this pandemic, I have been inspired by all the ways Marylanders have stepped up to safely help neighbors and even complete strangers in need. Last week, I put on my Orioles face mask (yes, I’ve ordered my Nats face mask too!) and did some socially-distanced visits to those on the front lines.

At Lifebridge Health in Baltimore, I toured their makeshift sewing factory where employees and volunteers are stitching together personal protective equipment (PPE) with material provided by Under Armour – just one way Maryland organizations are helping address this crisis. And I joined volunteers to assemble weekend food packages at the Baltimore Hunger Project. They have expanded capacity to help Maryland children in need of food assistance, distributing over 42,000 pounds of food in just over six weeks.

I’ve connected virtually with Marylanders tackling this crisis from all different perspectives – small business owners, faith leaders, experts developing vaccines, non-profits, and military leaders, to name a few.


But I have to say hosting a Virtual Kids Town Hall with some of Maryland’s after-school programs offered a new point of view – how the coronavirus looks from a child’s eyes. Usually at this time of year, I see students on their field trips to Washington, D.C., so it was fun to take their questions along with our special guest, public health expert Dr. Leana Wen.


We discussed why social distancing is important to keep us all safe, what school might look like when it reopens, and some of the strangest things we’ve heard about COVID-19. Their questions reminded me how much our children soak up information in new situations, such as trading classroom life for distance learning.

As we all adapt, Marylanders are continuing to do their part to fight the virus. But government at every level needs to better meet the urgency of this moment. That means getting help to those who are still not receiving it – unemployed people who are struggling to get the Maryland Department of Labor to approve and pay out their benefits; small business owners who can’t get loans or can’t use them because of bureaucratic red tape imposed by the Treasury Department or Small Business Administration; people who need to get tested but can’t; health care providers and other essential workers who are bravely staying on the job at their own risk without proper safety equipment and PPE; and the students, families, and teachers trying to learn and work from home without broadband or the necessary technology.

I share the frustrations of all these Marylanders, and I am fighting to address these problems and challenges. The fifth COVID relief package – called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act – is moving through the House of Representatives this week, and it includes many important provisions I have been working on, including support to help hard-hit state and local governments maintain essential public services; resources to help close the digital divide so all students can engage in distance learning; hazard pay for essential workers risking their lives; rent and mortgage relief; increased food assistance and child nutrition programs; and help for workers as well as struggling small businesses and non-profit organizations.

I will push to deliver all that relief when the HEROES Act reaches the Senate. But we need additional measures as well: 

  • To continue to fight the virus and safely re-open the economy, we need to build a massive pandemic response workforce. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to add hundreds of thousands of national service volunteers to AmeriCorps – to help conduct large-scale testing and contact tracing, and perform other essential functions. 
  • To increase production of personal protective equipment and testing supplies, I have been pushing the Trump Administration to fully utilize the Defense Production Act (DPA). Unfortunately, their response has been anemic. In 1944, at the height of World War II, we produced 96,270 military aircraft – more than 263 per day. We should be able to produce needed quantities of nasal swabs, reagents and other testing equipment.
  • To help small businesses weather the storm and reopen, my Rebuilding Main Street plan leverages the existing Work Share program. It shares payroll costs between hard-hit employers and the federal government, and provides a grant to help employers cover other costs – like rents or mortgages, or changes to stores, restaurants or other structures needed to re-open safely. 

  • To make health insurance more affordable for families, we need to enhance financial assistance for health plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unbelievably during this pandemic, the Trump administration is still trying to get the courts to strike down the ACA – a very real threat to millions of Americans’ health insurance. 

  • To supervise the public financing of relief efforts, the Senate and House must provide robust oversight and make sure the help is getting to those who need it most.

Even as we fight for these priorities, we must think about how this pandemic has exposed deep inequities in our society. It has had a disproportionately harmful impact on communities of color and shone a harsh light on disparities in a variety of areas, including our health care systems, access to educational opportunities, and housing.

I was focused on these areas before the pandemic, but the need for action is even more urgent now. It’s even more essential that we provide universal access to affordable health care, fully fund federal promises to our schools, provide access to affordable housing, and address other key priorities in every part of our state and country.

Together, we will weather this storm and build a better Maryland for all.


          Chris Van Hollen

To learn more about Senator Van Hollen's work to address the COVID-19 crisis, visit

Everyone counts! Fill out the Census now if you haven’t already at

June 2 is Election Day in Maryland, and I encourage you to vote by mail. Click here for more information and to request your absentee ballot. Everyone can vote by mail. Note that the ballots are incorrectly dated April 28, but will be counted if postmarked by June 2.

Protections and Resources for Marylanders

Here are some helpful resources I’ve shared in previous newsletters. And you can always reach out to us if you need help with federal agencies or programs. You may call my office at 301-545-1500 or email

  • Unemployment insurance (UI): I share the frustration of the many Marylanders who are having difficulty accessing unemployment benefits and the state’s new application website. My team and I have been in touch with the Maryland Department of Labor repeatedly, and we will keep monitoring and offering all possible assistance until these issues are fixed.

    Congress previously expanded UI to more workers, increased the amount of unemployment payments workers can receive by $600 per week, extended benefits by 13 weeks, and provided funds to help states process applications and get checks out faster.

    Your benefits, including the additional $600/week, will be backdated and paid based on your original eligibility date, so you will ultimately receive the help you urgently need. However, the backlog and delays are causing severe cash flow problems for many households.

    Unemployment insurance applicants, please note: 

    If you are newly eligible for unemployment benefits in Maryland, such as independent contractors, I encourage you to apply at the State of Maryland's new unemployment website, Select “Apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits” in the left hand column. This will take you to the BEACON one-stop application page.

    The State's new, one-stop unemployment insurance application is designed to allow Marylanders to file claims for all unemployment programs entirely online. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, and those who were previously required to file by phone like federal employees, members of the military, individuals who have worked in multiple states, and those who have worked for more than 3 employers in the last 18 months.

    If you have questions for the unemployment office, try reviewing their FAQ page before calling, because the phone hold times are very long.
  • No evictions: The state has ordered that no Maryland family or business who suffered a substantial loss of income due to COVID-19 or related closures can be evicted during the coronavirus state of emergency. The obligation to make rent and mortgage payments remains. Landlords may continue to file failure to pay rent cases, which will be considered after the state of emergency ends.
  • No repossessions: Marylanders’ cars, mobile homes, trailers, and house boats cannot be repossessed during the coronavirus emergency. The obligation to make rent and mortgage payments remains. Landlords may continue to file failure to pay rent cases, which will be considered after the state of emergency ends.
  • Senior citizens seeking information and resources on COVID-19 can click here.
  • To find school meals nearby, visit the Maryland State Department of Education’s meals site.
  • To find child care, call Maryland’s LOCATE referral system at 1-877-261-0060, or click here.
  • For temporary cash assistance to families with dependent children, click here.
  • For state small business help (separate from the Federal programs listed above), click here.