Maryland Senate report addresses equity and inclusion

A Maryland Senate work group has released a report with legislative recommendations to increase equity and inclusion in the state.

The work group was created in August 2020 in response to the racial disparities highlighted by the pandemic and last summer’s protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black and brown people.

“We analyzed prior legislation task force reports, work groups, boards and commissions. We also reached out to colleagues in other states and other levels of government to put together what we thought would be a researched-based set of recommendations,” said Maryland Senate President Pro Tempore Melony Griffith, who chaired the work group.

Griffith represents Prince George’s County.

The work group has made specific recommendations, many of which will be introduced as legislation during the 2021 session of the General Assembly.

The report covered three main areas: wealth and economic opportunity, environmental justice and health disparities.

One of the recommendations is based around maternal mortality rates.

“Maryland’s maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is 3.7-times higher than the rate for white mothers. This is unacceptable,” said Dr. Tina Cheng, a pediatrician and researcher who worked with the group.

“Recommendations include extending Medicaid coverage until 12 months postpartum, and ensuring all pregnant women have awareness of and access to comprehensive prenatal care.”

The report also recommended increasing scholarships for members of minority communities to attend nursing and medical school, as well as a variety of environmental justice measures.

“I’m very excited for our recommendation to create a joint pilot program that establishes uniformed standards of mold assessment and remediation. Something that is desperately needed in many of our schools, assisted-living facilities and our public housing,” said state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, who represents Anne Arundel County.

The report also recommended increasing tree coverage in Black and Latino communities. It says tree coverage can help moderate temperature and reduce heat waves.

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