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Nonprofits call for $1B of Maryland budget surplus to go to those hurt by COVID-19

“It’s no longer OK to ask nonprofits to do more with less, when the state now has plenty of funding to meet those needs,” says Heather Iliff, Maryland Nonprofit’s president and CEO. (Submitted Photo)

Over 200 nonprofit organizations and leaders in Maryland are calling on the state government to put a portion of its multibillion-dollar budget surplus toward communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Led by Maryland Nonprofits, an organization that represents the state’s nonprofit sector, members of the nonprofit community have signed a letter asking for $1 billion of the surplus to go towards targeted COVID-19 relief. It also lays out a number of the Maryland nonprofit sector’s priorities for the coming year. 

According to the letter, COVID-19 relief should include both direct cash stimulus and funds to maintain services that address the needs of Marylanders, such as food and housing assistance. The letter especially pushes for funds to be used to improve wages for direct care workers — those who work in children’s services, behavioral health and similar fields — in order to attract more, high-quality workers to those fields and improve the quality of care Marylanders receive. 

“It’s no longer OK to ask nonprofits to do more with less, when the state now has plenty of funding to meet those needs,” said Heather Iliff, Maryland Nonprofit’s president and CEO, at a Wednesday news conference announcing the priorities outlined in the letter.  

“For years, we’ve heard excuses from our leaders, that there just isn’t enough money to pay people a fair wage or cover the full cost of services. It’s not time to tuck funds away into a rainy day fund or send big tax relief to people who saw their stock portfolio nearly double,” she said. “For nonprofits, the direct care workforce, and low-income and frontline workers of Maryland, it’s raining now and it hasn’t let up since March of 2020.” 

The letter, which is addressed to Gov. Larry Hogan, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker Andrienne Jones and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, also proposes that $500 million be included in future budgets for these same purposes. Additionally, it calls for another round of pandemic relief funds for the nonprofit sector. 

“Nonprofits are businesses with similar pressures and losses due to Covid as other small businesses,” the letter reads, encouraging the state to offer more pandemic aid to the sector. “Nonprofits have had to cancel fundraising events and cancel programs for which they charge fees. Childcare organizations, YMCAs, day programs, programs for people with disabilities have had significant layoffs. Paycheck Protection Program and other relief programs are slated to lapse at the end of 2021. Grant programs for nonprofits through (the Department of Housing and Community Development) and county governments have received far more eligible applications (than) they have been able to fund.” 

Previously, 2,000 of Maryland’s nonprofits received $40 million through DHCD’s Maryland Nonprofit Recovery Initiative. 

Hogan previously announced his plan for the surplus, which will be $2.5 billion in the fiscal year 2021 budget and is projected to increase to twice that amount by the end of fiscal year 2023. It includes allocating some of the funds towards tax relief for working families, as well as towards direct relief checks for Marylanders “struggling to make ends meet.”

The remainder will go towards retirement tax relief, enhancements for state employees and padding out the state’s rainy-day fund, with the goal of raising it to $1.67 billion. 

“Those budget discussions are ongoing,” said Hogan’s spokesperson, Mike Ricci, in an email. “We are grateful to our nonprofits for all they do, especially during the holidays, to help people in need.”