July 26, 2021

Bringing Federal Support to Maryland

In March, the Senate passed and President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan, taking big, bold action to meet the urgency of this moment by prioritizing resources to defeat the pandemic and putting our state and our country squarely on the road to recovery. It was a historic win for the nation and for Maryland. For the past four months, federal funds have been providing desperately-needed support to our workers, small businesses, families, schools, and communities. These funds have already gone directly toward preventing a wave of home evictions, keeping restaurants afloat, assisting families with disabilities, ensuring our Head Start programs can operate to provide early education, bolstering child care, and much more.

And on July 15th, we marked another very important moment for both our country’s economic comeback and for our larger mission to support middle-income and working-class families across the country with the launch of new monthly Child Tax Credit payments to tens of millions of American families who are paying the bills to support their kids. This measure, which we included in the American Rescue Plan, covers almost 60 million children and will cut child poverty nearly in half this year. This expanded Child Tax Credit has been increased to $3,000 per child between the ages of six and seventeen and $3,600 per child under six years old – and half of this amount will be provided in monthly payments to families from now through the end of this year. That provision alone will benefit more than 1.1 million children in families throughout Maryland and lift 52,000 of them out of poverty. I hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders to discuss what this means for families in Maryland – and the importance of making this tax credit expansion permanent going forward. For more information on the new expansion of the Child Tax Credit, visit https://www.vanhollen.senate.gov/coronavirus.

The American Rescue Plan also extended federal emergency unemployment insurance through the first week in September to help those workers who are still struggling to get back on their feet and into the workforce. Governor Hogan’s decision to abruptly cut off these unemployment benefits threatened thousands of struggling Maryland families with financial ruin. 140,000 Marylanders would have lost their unemployment benefits completely, while more than 40,000 others would see their benefits cut by $300 per week. Not only did it thrust thousands of Maryland families into unnecessary uncertainty, it also risked reducing the strength of our economic recovery by needlessly forfeiting over one billion dollars in federal resources that would be spent by Marylanders purchasing goods and services at Maryland businesses. Fortunately, the Maryland Circuit Court ruled against the Governor’s decision – a ruling which was then upheld by the Maryland Court of Appeals, our state’s highest court – affirming Maryland law and protecting this vital lifeline. Over 180,000 Marylanders can now breathe a sigh of relief, but it shouldn't have required a court decision to save these important benefits.

Building Our 21st Century Infrastructure, Expanding Workforce Opportunities, and Cutting the Costs Faced by American Households

I am pleased with the progress we have made with the Biden Administration over the last six months, but we have much more to do to enact the “Better” part of the “Build Back Better” agenda. That includes enacting a 21st-century infrastructure package to put millions of Americans to work modernizing and expanding everything from transit, roads, and bridges to connecting every American with high-speed internet, to building a clean energy economy to confront the accelerating costs and devastation wrought by climate change. We are working to achieve much of this goal through bipartisan legislation. 

As we modernize the physical backbone of our economy, we must also dramatically expand educational and workforce opportunities for every American and cut the costs of everything from health care to child care. I was proud to partner with my Democratic colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee to roll out our framework to do just that. This initial proposal, combined with the bipartisan infrastructure plan, includes all key elements of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan – along with additional measures to reduce health care costs and expand access to quality, affordable health care.

Together, these initiatives lay the groundwork for advancing a number of key priorities I’ve been fighting for, including upgrading our roads, bridges, tunnels, rail and transit systems, and waterways. We must also restore communities that have been torn apart by past projects by removing barriers like the Highway to Nowhere in West Baltimore. Our budget framework also includes additional measures to ensure universal early education; make workforce training and college more affordable; reduce prescription drug costs; expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision services; extend the vital Child Tax Credits in the American Rescue Plan; and invest in a clean energy future that will create millions of home-grown, good-paying jobs. I’m committed to working to pass this bold plan in the Congress so we can strengthen our country and build a brighter future for every American.

Holding USPS Accountable

Over many months, I’ve heard from thousands of constituents about slow postal delivery. Medication shipments have gone missing, small businesses can’t get products to customers, and people are getting hit with late fees for bill payments that didn’t arrive on time. The situation is doubly frustrating because the Congress allocated an additional $10 billion to the Postal Service to help meet its needs during the pandemic. For some, things have gotten better. But far too many are still waiting on the mail, and the performance of the U.S. Postal Service in Maryland is among the worst in the nation. This is unacceptable. 

That’s why this month, as the new Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, I organized a Senate hearing to focus on this problem. At that hearing, the USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb confirmed that the drastic changes made last year by Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, helped cause the mail delays we’ve all been experiencing for the past year. In addition to IG Whitcomb, I invited three Marylanders to testify: Brian McLaurin, a postal worker from Forest Heights, Maryland, who talked about how management changes have slowed down the mail; Rania Dima, a resident of Frederick, Maryland, who detailed how USPS delays have impacted her and other members of the blind community; and Karen Meyers, a small business owner and resident of Baltimore, Maryland, who discussed the impact that USPS delays have had on her business and on Baltimore residents. Their testimony showed clearly the real harm these delays are causing and underscored a fact we’ve long known to be true: we must get rid of Postmaster General DeJoy and work urgently to revive the Postal Service. I am also pleased that the IG has launched a special investigation into postal delays in the Baltimore area, which have been especially severe.

Tackling the Gun Violence Epidemic

Tackling gun violence in our communities requires all hands on deck. There is no single cause of the gun violence that has plagued our cities – and to meet these challenges we need an all-of-government and all-of-community response. As part of that vital effort, Senator Cardin and I, together with members of our Baltimore area congressional delegation, met with Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, and Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner to discuss how we can work at all levels of government to reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods.

Our meeting coincided with a similar discussion hosted by President Biden with local leaders from around the country on this very issue. I’m glad that the President has already released a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to gun violence and bolster public safety. I look forward to working with various federal agencies to implement the Biden Administration’s strategy and ensure that Maryland receives the federal resources that it needs, including funds for community-based violence prevention programs. Congress must also do its part by renewing the ban on assault weapons and prohibiting high-capacity magazines – and should enact legislation to create a universal background check system for firearms. I’m also pushing to pass my Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act, which would incentivize states to pass their own permit-to-purchase laws like the one we have in Maryland. 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. It has been proven that these laws can dramatically reduce homicides and save lives. While we have such a law in Maryland, our state is not an island. More than half of the guns used in crimes in Maryland come from outside our state. That’s why it’s crucial that we pass these gun safety bills to cover the rest of the country. 

The Senate should also swiftly confirm David Chipman, President Biden’s nominee for permanent Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Congress should give ATF the resources it needs to stem the illegal trafficking of firearms – as laid out in my AIM Act. These actions should be coupled with meaningful police reform legislation, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. We must get this done. All these efforts are critical to our larger mission of ensuring true public safety in our communities.

In many ways, the next few months will determine whether we can enact the Build Back Better agenda that President Biden outlined in his campaign. These will also be critical months in our fight to save our democracy from the ongoing efforts of many state legislatures to erect barriers to voting. Your continued vigilance and engagement are essential to the success of our democracy. Thanks for being a partner in that important work. 

I hope you’ll continue to participate in shaping our future together.






          Chris Van Hollen