Democrats in Maryland’s senate are out with their plan to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for any future health crisis.
In a virtual conference, several pieces of legislation were discussed.
Senate President Bill Ferguson and other members of the Democratic Caucus are sponsoring the legislation, which they hope will help the state both now and in the future.
“The last 11 months have been more challenging for Marylanders across the state than we ever could have possibly imagined,” said Ferguson.
“As these months unfolded, it has become clear that there are long-term solutions that we need to consider to limit the ramifications of the pandemic and to be prepared for any other future public health crises.”
One bill discussed would set up a Maryland Public Health Job Corps.
“It’s based on [a] proposal that President [Joe] Biden made before the election to recruit people who are unemployed, because of COVID, into jobs we need to help deal with COVID,” said Sen. James Rosapepe, a Democrat representing multiple counties.
“That includes helping with contact tracing, that includes reaching people who need to get vaccines.”
Another proposal, which Sen. Melanie Griffith, D-Prince George’s County, introduced, pertains to institutionalized telehealth in Maryland, in which patients can experience doctors visits online or over the phone.
Similarly, institutionalizing coronavirus testing and vaccinations was discussed as a portion of another proposed bill.
“We need to institutionalize what the insurance companies have been doing, to their credit, which is making sure that insurance companies are paying for people’s tests when it’s appropriate,” Rosapepe said.
“We want to put that into the law and make it clear we’ve been working with the insurance commissioner on that.”
That was not the only virus-related bill proposed. A different proposal called for set testing, contact tracing and vaccination goals for the state’s health department.
“One of our challenges has been that the state health department is not been setting goals. They have been going week-to-week flailing about, frankly,” said Rosapepe.
Making sure businesses have access to capital as they work to recover from the pandemic is the goal of another piece of legislation.
“Too many employers have had to choose whether or not to lay off their employees or continue working in a deficit,” said Sen. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel County.
Some of the other proposals include:
- Senate Bill 772 would help businesses by establishing the Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program in the Department of Commerce. It would provide working capital to assist some Maryland for-profit small businesses.
- Senate Bill 894 is the Post-Crisis Jobs Act of 2021, which would create a program of education and retraining for those who have lost jobs during the pandemic.
- Senate Bill 486 is meant to protect essential workers by establishing compliance and enforcement authority for the commissioner of labor and industry, if a violation of health or safety protocols has occurred in the workplace.
- Senate Bill 66 is focused on ensuring everyone in Maryland can be connected online, creating the Office of Digital Inclusion, which would make sure every resident has access to universal, affordable, high-quality broadband internet service and the necessary equipment.
- Senate Bill 647 will mandate a report that takes a close look at how the state has used the federal COVID-19 relief funding it has received.
A list of bills currently being discussed can be found online.
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