April 11, 2021

We’ve now experienced more than one year of this pandemic. In that time, Maryland has endured unprecedented hardship and loss. But we’ve also come together as a state and as a community to help one another weather this storm. I want to thank all of the Marylanders who have stepped up in this time of struggle. But even as the beginning of this pandemic’s end comes into focus, we cannot let up. I know that with the enduring spirit, perseverance, and determination of Marylanders across our state, we will beat this pandemic and build back stronger.

Extending a Lifeline to Maryland

COVID-19 has challenged our nation in historic and unparalleled ways. Congress has answered these challenges with historic and unparalleled action. The American Rescue Plan is already delivering bold, urgent relief to Maryland. It provides a lifeline to our families, workers, and small businesses that are struggling to get by, as well as critical funding to ramp up our efforts to beat this virus – including to improve accessibility and equity of vaccine distribution. I was proud to fight for our state’s priorities in this legislation, from direct payments to Maryland families and workers, to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – which will lift thousands in our state out of poverty. I also worked to secure an extension for health care enrollment for the uninsured as well as resources to close the digital divide and bring Maryland’s students safely back into the classroom – and I’m glad that all Maryland school systems have started to reopen for in-person instruction.

Much of the funding in the American Rescue Plan is moving out the door, including direct payments to those who are eligible; you can learn more about if, when, and how you’ll receive a payment by clicking here. If you have questions about your eligibility for a stimulus payment or have any other IRS concerns, please reach out to my office directly. And my coronavirus website is updated frequently with the newest information on how to access relief. You can also learn more through my official fact sheet on the American Rescue Plan. In addition, I’ve hosted a series of roundtable discussions with leaders from across our state on how this new law will help address the challenges our communities are facing and how we can best tackle those challenges head-on. In March, I led roundtables with folks from around our state on equitable vaccine distribution, child care, and closing the digital divide – and I look forward to hosting similar conversations in the future.

Building Back Better

As we continue to push forward in the fight to beat this virus and lend a hand to those hardest hit, Congress is also turning toward tackling another big challenge: building back better. Our nation is at a turning point. We have the opportunity to modernize and build our infrastructure for the 21st century, tackle climate change, and generate millions of good-paying jobs to develop an economy that works for every American. As our economy and workers continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to invest in our workforce and address inequities so we can rebuild stronger. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will achieve these goals. 

I’m glad to see that this package includes a number of Maryland priorities that I’ve fought for – including provisions to build out broadband, modernize our transit systems, eliminate dated infrastructure like Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere, expand affordable housing, and build better, safer schools for our children. The American Jobs Plan also includes vitally-needed measures to provide jobs for long-term unemployed workers and create a national climate bank to spur innovative renewable energy projects – these are two legislative initiatives I have introduced in the Senate and worked to develop with the Biden Administration. I’m committed to working to pass this bold plan in Congress so we can strengthen our country and build a brighter future for every American.

Securing Every American’s Right to Vote

One of our first orders of business in the new Congress has been to reintroduce S.1., the For the People Act – a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would end special interest corruption of our politics and ensure the government works for the people. The reintroduction of this landmark bill comes as Republican lawmakers in 47 states continue to bring up restrictive policies and use unfounded election conspiracies regarding the 2020 presidential election to bring back Jim Crow-era voting laws that restrict Americans’ access to the ballot box – with a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown Americans.

As big corporations continue to flood U.S. elections with dark money and Republicans in states around the country attempt to erect barriers to voting, we must act urgently to put our democracy firmly back in the hands of the American people. I’ve been proud to work alongside my colleagues to author key elements of this package and to ensure that this sweeping bill will strengthen our democracy and reduce the power of big money special interests. And I was proud to speak on the Senate floor in support of this vital legislation that will establish a minimum national standard to ensure that every American’s right to vote is secure. The For the People Act is crucial to guaranteeing that America has free and fair elections, and the Senate must get it done.

Standing Up to Violence and Hate

Our state and our nation continue to confront an epidemic of preventable mass shootings and daily violence. This senseless and avoidable tragedy must end. I joined several of my colleagues on the Senate floor to read the names of those we’ve lost into the Congressional Record, honor the stories of Marylanders who have been victims of gun violence, and urge lawmakers to join me in passing commonsense gun reform to save lives. Gun violence tears at the fabric of our families and our communities and exacts a lasting toll. I’m glad to see that the Biden Administration has moved forward on priorities we’ve recommended, from cracking down on ghost guns, to improving firearms trafficking reports. And President Biden’s decision to nominate gun violence prevention expert David Chipman to serve as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) sends a clear signal that the Administration is ready to get to work on this issue. But it’s past time for Congress to act on gun safety reform through legislation, and I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get it done.

This session, I’m proud to have reintroduced my Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, bicameral legislation that would create a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to enact laws requiring individuals to obtain a license before purchasing a handgun – which have been statistically proven to be effective in reducing firearm homicides and keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited individuals. States require licenses to drive a car in order to protect public safety – requiring a license to buy a handgun should be a no-brainer.

I’ve also joined several of my Senate colleagues in standing up to hate by introducing a resolution that condemns all forms of anti-Asian sentiment, racism, and discrimination, and calls on federal officials, in collaboration with state and local agencies and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community organizations, to address the rise in COVID-19-related hate crimes. We cannot be silent in the face of the violence and hate targeting our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Each of us not only has a moral obligation to forcefully speak out against this bigotry and racism, but also to take action to stop it. That’s why this resolution wholly condemns these despicable words and actions and calls on all levels of government to do more to combat this hate.

I will keep fighting against the poisonous forces of division and keep working to ensure that we come together as a state and as a country to build a stronger nation that respects and appreciates our differences. That effort is only possible thanks to your help, input, and partnership. I want to hear from you and urge you to stay engaged in the battle for the heart and soul of our country. 


              Chris Van Hollen