By Josh Kurtz
April 29, 2020
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Democratic members of the General Assembly sent Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) two letters Wednesday ― one urging the governor to cancel rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 emergency, the other concerning equity issues with the state’s unemployment benefits.
With May 1 rent and mortgage payments due on Friday, 51 House Democrats, led by Del. Jheanelle K. Wilkins (D-Montgomery), have asked Hogan “to implement aggressive housing relief measures, such as cancelling rent and mortgage payments for businesses and residents affected” as the economic crisis surrounding COVID-19 deepens.
While the state has put a moratorium on evictions during the emergency, the delegates argue that many commercial and residential tenants and property owners will be unable to make their rent and mortgage payments when the state economy initially reopens.
“Even after life starts to return to normal, many Marylanders will not be able to pay the rent or mortgage payments owed or accumulated during the crisis,” the lawmakers write. “You must act now to prevent a wave of evictions and foreclosures.”
The Democrats conclude their letter by saying “Marylanders are now counting on bold action to keep them afloat.”
Meanwhile, five Democratic state senators, led by Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), are going to bat on behalf of nonprofit organizations and local governments, which are not treated the same as for-profit businesses under federal and state employment law.
According to the senators, nonprofit groups and local governments pay into the state’s unemployment system differently than profit-making companies ― and during the COVID-19 emergency, businesses have been granted a year delay to pay into the unemployment fund. As a result, the governments’ and nonprofits’ financial burdens are greater, especially when they are forced to lay off or furlough workers during an economic downturn.
Unless the local governments and nonprofit groups are granted equivalent status in the state law, they will wind up having to pay into the account up front, “reducing their capacity to provide critical services during this pandemic,” the lawmakers write.
Co-signing the letter are Sens. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard), James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s) and Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City).