March 12, 2022
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
Two years ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to be a global pandemic. The rate of spread of this virus around the world was perhaps best described by WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said he was, “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
A little over one year ago, the United States was near the bottom of the industrialized nations when it came to containing COVID-19. Most Americans were not vaccinated. There was no clear message about the dangers of this virus or how to keep yourself or your family safe. Our nation was in need of leadership to set us on a science-based path forward.
We got that leadership with President Joe Biden and on March 11, 2021, he signed into law the American Rescue Plan. Congress passed this emergency legislation to prioritize the fight against COVID-19. We invested more resources into vaccines, testing, contact tracing, therapeutics, and related public health programs to reduce the devastation wrought by COVID-19, so we could bring an end to this public health crisis. We also knew that the economic and social devastation left by this pandemic would take longer to eradicate, so we made strategic investments to lift up the hardest hit American families and small businesses to help our communities recover.
Today, America leads the world in developing and distributing vaccines, promoting international cooperation to end the pandemic, distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) and therapeutics, testing and more.
Our nation persevered through the Omicron variant earlier this year, and now positivity rates and hospitalizations are down. More than 216 million Americans are now vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and two of three eligible adults have booster shots, which offers the best protection. The effort to get our communities vaccinated and boosted continues since data continually shows that the unvaccinated bear the brunt of serious illness and death. Vaccines with boosters, as well as a host of effective treatments and therapeutics, including monoclonal antibodies, antiviral pills, and preventive therapies are preventing the very worst of outcomes.
The American Rescue Plan has been critically important for the people of Maryland and our recovery during this pandemic. Let me emphasize that the pandemic is not over. There is no “mission accomplished” message here. There is more work to be done creating a new normal for our state and our country as we finally get this virus under control. The last year has been a remarkable turnaround, though.
The financial relief distributed by the American Rescue Plan – to our state, our local governments, small businesses, nonprofits and others – kept us from falling into a deep recession. Every Maryland community found itself suddenly on the front lines of this health crisis, providing essential services and support for local residents. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we kept our economy afloat. Rather than fall into a deep financial hole to cover the cost of these new COVID-related expenses, we now see the state and local governments with healthy surpluses. Budget and staff cuts loomed large early in this pandemic, as cities and towns had to make difficult choices. But the American Rescue Plan provided the right resources at the right time.
Providing a financial lift during the toughest of times, the American Rescue Plan delivered direct assistance to families – 2.5 million Maryland households received direct payments totaling over $6 billion. Under the expanded Child Tax Credit, 1.1 million children received benefits, which lifted 52,000 Maryland children out of poverty. Many Maryland families are still struggling today, and the federal government should continue to do more. But if not for the American Rescue Plan, the number of families underwater today would be catastrophic.
I’m especially proud of what we have been able to do to help small businesses. As you know, I chair the Senate Small Business Committee. I helped put together the relief programs in the American Rescue Plan. A year ago, we were proud of the tools we made available in the previous administration, but so many of the small businesses that needed help were not getting help. So in the American Rescue Plan, we targeted relief to those small businesses, restaurants and venues that were in greatest need. Restaurants around the state, like Chick and Ruth’s Delly in Annapolis, have told me how they would not have survived the pandemic had it not been for the Paycheck Protection Program.
I could write at great length on this topic, but let me end by saying that we all know how challenging 2021 was. COVID was cruel to so many families. Crises like this are when government can best bring together the resources that will make a positive difference in people’s lives and the American Rescue Plan did just that.
Thank you for your time. Stay safe.