ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed the $1 billion RELIEF Act into law on Monday, bringing aid to both low-income families and small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
As part of the plan, all state and local taxes on unemployment benefits will be repealed. Organizers for the bill said the change could lead to people in the state saving $400 million over the next two years while also helping others get more refunds during tax filing season.
The bill also includes immediate stimulus payments of $500 for families and $300 for individuals who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In total, the governor's team said the payments provide $178 million in relief for 400,000 people living in Maryland.
Around $500 million will provide new funding for programs and grants for businesses and nonprofits, housing, health, unemployment insurance, energy assistance, education, and human services.
Small businesses will receive aid as well, with sales tax credits being offered of up to $3,000 a month for three months.
The Popcorn Bag DC, a gourmet popcorn shop located in Prince George's County, hoped to be one of the 55,000 small businesses that organizers said would benefit from the relief.
"That will actually be very huge and vital to a lot of the small businesses, including myself," said owner Teia Hill. "It allows me to potentially have the option to hire. It also allows us to get newer equipment.”
Hill and her staff have experienced the business impact of the pandemic firsthand after being forced to navigate through restrictions and rules in the county and state.
With the recent weeks and months providing even more challenges, Hill said on Monday that the relief act provided a welcoming sign of assistance.
"Being able to save anything in this season, especially between the ice storms and the reduced hours, is going to be great," she said.
The Salvation Army National Capital Area Command also voiced support for the plan on Monday and said it could bring a big amount of aid for families in need.
"There’s no doubt we’ve definitely seen a rise in requests for our services for rental assistance, for utility assistance, for food," said Major Mark Woodcock. "For those needy families who have lost their job or their hours have been reduced, it will go a tremendous way in helping them.”
After providing $5.5 million in financial aid in 2019, Woodcock told WUSA 9 that the local Salvation Army saw a $1 million increase in its financial assistance last year.
While the pandemic still continues to bring plenty of challenges, he said the stimulus money for low-income families could help them pay for needed services or items.
"We all can understand going to the grocery store and how much our grocery bill is. Having hungry kids at home all day long only increases the grocery bill," Woodcock said. "That money can go a long way in a lot of different ways according to the need of the individual.”
The Maryland RELIEF Act received support from both Democrats and Republicans in the state.
In remarks during the signing ceremony on Monday, Gov. Hogan hoped the relief bill could help bring even more progress to the state as vaccination efforts continue to ramp up.
"We still face a long and difficult winter ahead, and many Marylanders are still in need, but our vaccination rate is rising every day," he said. "As we get more shots into the arms of our most vulnerable citizens and all of our key health metrics are continuing to decline, and now with this RELIEF Act being signed into law, even more, tax relief and economic stimulus help are on the way for our struggling families and small businesses."