Maryland is burbling with news, even in a week when the kabuki production on budget reduction soaked up all the coverage. Choice of a new elections administrator narrowed down; can a spouse rape a spouse?; in search of sustainable concrete; shakeup at the Purple Line (again?); reproductive health facilities exit WVA for MD; court-ordered prisoner moves falling behind; and Maryland grows older as we all age. Oh yes, and a well-regarded scorecard for General Assembly members points the finger at several who failed of their promise. All that in News You Can Use for this short post-holiday week. Keep up!
On May 23rd the Washington Post published a story by Lateishia Beachum discussing the budget process in Prince George’s County.
In the article Michael Sanderson the Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Counties made the case against allocating a small portion of funds in the County budget to support programs to benefit County residents.In response to Michael Sanderson's comments and other fiscal hawks quoted in the recent Washington Post article, I'd like to offer a different perspective. While I respect Mr. Sanderson's dedication to fiscal responsibility, I believe that we must also consider the value and potential impact of investing in crucial community programs.
Let's begin by addressing the economic landscape. Sanderson refers to our economy as a "triple witching house" and questions the strength of the economy without federal support. It's true that we're in an unusual economic period, but let's look at the numbers. The budget has increased from $4.34 billion to $5.3 billion (factoring in the new 60 million dollar revenue shortfall), a rise of 23.2%. For a family making $55,000, this would be like budgeting for the upcoming year after getting the news of a raise to $67,609 in annual income. This isn't an illusion, but a notable increase.
Now, let's address the programs that are currently under discussion. It's crucial to note that these aren't just new liberal expenditures, as they may be perceived. They are key initiatives aimed at strengthening our community and improving lives.
The guaranteed basic income program, for example, is a temporary initiative that is set to be matched by local philanthropy. By not funding it, we stand to lose potential money that would directly benefit our residents. It's essentially leaving money on the table, money that could make a substantial difference in the lives of our county's most vulnerable residents.
Then there's the senior housing program, a vital initiative that doesn't require a significant additional contribution from the county because it's mostly funded by state money. The rental assistance program, too, can be funded through a repurposing of existing funds, creating a fund that's more accessible to those dealing with rent gouging.
Finally, the Fair Elections program isn't a new program as implied in the article. It was created in 2018, and the longer we leave it unfunded, the more we'll need to allocate in the future.
Sanderson suggests that a 1% shortfall in the budget can have significant impacts. While it's true that every percentage point matters, we should also consider the scale of the budget increase and the size of our reserves. The county has $625 million in reserves, or 11.7% of the budget. In our household scenario, that would be like having a $7,901 emergency fund, on top of a $2,907 savings from the previous year. We are not on the brink of financial disaster; we have a large fund balance, reserves and an increased budget.
The proposed investment in community programs represents a small fraction of this budget increase. It's 0.28% of the total budget, or the equivalent of that same family now making $67,609 investing $189.30 into something they deeply care about after receiving a $13,000 raise. This is not about jeopardizing our financial stability, but about making a conscious choice to invest in our community. You can also add to this the fact that as we discussed earlier these are not new unsustainable long term programs, but in some cases temporary programs, or existing programs that have been underfunded for years, and in other cases reallocations of existing program funds to improve service delivery for residents.
Finally, Sanderson highlights the potential impacts on public parks, road maintenance, and snow removal. These are important services, but they are not the only ones our residents need and value. The programs we are advocating for address social justice, affordable housing, economic development – areas that can transform lives and improve our community in profound ways. Also, nothing that we propose would disrupt those services.
So, while I agree with Sanderson that we need to be mindful of our budget and reserves, I also believe we have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to invest in programs that reflect our values and aspirations as a community and we have the money to do this responsibly. Let's use our budget wisely to create a brighter future for all residents.
Run me my money–a popular African American Vernacular English (AAVE) phrase that simply means, “Pay me the money that is owed.” It’s time for organizations to pay us our full wage and stop conditioning portions of our wages based on future performance or loyalty. I’m specifically talking about nondiscretionary bonuses. As a single mom myself, bonuses help pay for my child’s tutoring, sports classes, and summer programs. I couldn’t afford any of these extracurricular activities without them.
I’ve worked in and around the financial industry for almost 20 years. My salary is comparable to most mid-to-senior level positions in my industry. Bonuses are an expected supplement to our annual salary for not only my industry but many others as well. Many of us not only expect an annual bonus from our employer but we rely on it. Some of us use it to pay down credit card or student loan debt, increase our children’s college tuition fund or pay for the annual family vacation. Employers use bonuses as recruitment tool to attract and maintain the best talent. In fact, some employers will add the annual bonus amount to your employment contract to reflect your expected annual income. We get excited when we see those numbers and immediately commit to being the best employees we can be. At the end of the year, we get so excited for our upcoming annual bonus only to be shocked at the structure of the pay-out. Instead of receiving the full amount of what is owed, you receive a letter that states that you get 30% now and the rest in two years if you stay with the company. Bonuses are for past performances not future. Why am I forced to wait to be paid in two years for work I’ve already completed?
Employers should not be allowed to withhold earnings and structure pay however they please. This type of wage theft should be banned in Maryland, which is the sixth state with the highest cost of living. Congress should prohibit this unethical behavior that is currently allowed in our state. Middle-class families deserve to rely on their annual bonuses like any other wage. Not every middle-class issue involves taxes. Often our financial strains derive from our employers. Requiring employers to fulfill their terms of the contract by paying us our full wage will bring many Marylanders a lot of financial relief.
By Lanham resident Silva Wells
In the upcoming weeks, we are preparing to launch a wave of organizing efforts, events, and initiatives that will shape the course of our progressive movement. Together, we will work tirelessly to amplify our voices, drive policy reforms, and build a stronger, more inclusive Maryland for all its residents.
We are confident that by taking quick actions and harnessing the power of our collective efforts, we will make significant strides in the months to come. Read on for quick actions you can take, updates on our task force work and opportunities to engage with these initiatives firsthand.
Gov. Moore is putting pressure on state agencies to set example for climate resiliency, wielding data to make change. Meanwhile, the ever-vigilant National Rifle Association jumped to sue the state as soon as restrictions on open carry of firearms got the governor's signature last week. The Blue Crab, a signature foodstuff associated with Maryland, has made something of a comeback in its Chesapeake Bay ecosystem but all parties agree more recovery is needed. And the on-again, off-again struggle in DC about the debt ceiling keeps Marylanders on the edge; a default could mean iinstant disaster while big cuts in public relief programs could affect Maryland's financial health. All this and more in News You Can Use this week.
Today is the International Day of Families, and it serves as a reminder to celebrate all Maryland families. However, today we are also reminded of the alarming trend plaguing Black and Brown families in Maryland, where an unacceptably high number of youth of color are being removed from loving homes and placed into foster care. It’s time to bring attention to the racism embedded within the foster care and adoption industry, which not only perpetuates the destruction of Black and Brown families but also profits from their suffering.
According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Black children in Maryland are 2.9 times more likely to be placed in foster care as compared to their white counterparts. However, with the rate of abuse and maltreatment being fairly even along racial divides, why do we have so many more Black and Brown children removed from their families in Maryland?
While foster care and adoption can be a good protective tool for youth when used correctly, the adoption industry is a for-profit system that profits off the displacement of children from their families. Within this industry, children are commodities and low-income areas are disproportionately targeted. In addition, foster care has become privatized in many places, which results in the disproportionate policing of Black and Brown families with incentives given to child welfare agencies for increased adoptions. That incentive remains the same whether or not the child is removed for a legitimate or illegitimate reason, making it easier for the wrongful removal of some of our most vulnerable children to be extremely profitable.
Implicit racial biases within the child welfare system are a large cause of the overrepresentation of Black and Brown youth in foster care. Studies consistently highlight the impact of racial prejudice within care assessments, resulting in hasty decisions to remove children from their homes. Stereotypes surrounding Black and Brown families, such as racist assumptions of neglect and criminality, need to be actively addressed within the foster care system immediately.
The separation of children of color from their families and communities has far-reaching consequences. It disrupts the bonds that form the foundation of their identity and can perpetuate intergenerational trauma. Placement in unfamiliar environments can compound the challenges these children face, leading to a higher risk of mental health issues, diminished educational outcomes, and increased involvement with the criminal justice system. Additionally, children of color may be placed outside their cultural and religious community, resulting in identity loss. Adoption and foster care have also historically been used as tools of colonization through societal structures such as residential schools for Indigenous youth, which are similar in many ways to group homes and collective placements today.
Support and counseling for parents while prioritizing child safety should be the priority before immediate removal. In many ways, the system neglects Black and Brown parents who could benefit from external support, choosing to give that effort almost unilaterally to white families. Studies have shown that preventative resources, too, are unequally distributed and that Black and Brown families are less likely to receive family preservation services. Children of color also have higher statistics of being mistreated or abused once they’re placed in foster care as compared to their white counterparts and are less likely to receive permanent placements.
We are continuously working towards closing racial disparity gaps in Maryland. We urge you to do the following to help protect Black and Brown families in Maryland:
- Raise Awareness: Share accurate statistics, personal stories, and the devastating consequences of family separation to help foster a greater understanding in your communities.
- Policy Reforms: Advocate for legislative changes that challenge the racial biases embedded within the child welfare system. This includes equitably implementing reviews of placement decisions, cultural competency training, and family preservation services.
- Community Support: Support grassroots organizations that provide resources, mentorship, and advocacy for Black and Brown families, like Progressive Maryland.
- Dismantling Profiteering: Scrutinize financial incentives within for-profit adoption and foster care systems, and advocate for the well-being of children over profit.
It's time to acknowledge and address the systemic racism that permeates Maryland's foster care and adoption industries on this International Day of Families. We must work together to create a society that respects and values every family, regardless of race or background. We can start to establish a system that really prioritizes the preservation and support of Black and Brown families by elevating the voices of impacted families, calling for legislative changes, and assisting community-driven initiatives.Read more
Happy International Day of Families, dedicated to raising awareness about family-related issues and enhancing understanding of the social, economic, and demographic factors that impact them. At Progressive Maryland, we believe that families are the backbone of our communities, and we are committed to supporting them through grassroots organizing. They deserve our unwavering support and advocacy. That's why we encourage you to check out our latest blog post on our website, where we delve into the significance of the International Day of Families specifically in Maryland and its connection to Black and Brown families as well as actions you can take to support them.
As we continue our journey toward social progress, it is vital to harness the power of grassroots organizing. Check out the memo for quick actions you can take to help build our communities, updates on our task force work and news you can use!
On Maryland's mind: food insecurity, staying on Medicaid, keeping the Blueprint on track and lots more. News You Can Use.
While the GOP US House Caucus plays daily chicken on the looming debt ceiling deadline, families here in Maryland have the same old questions: where does our next meal come from? How can we avoid losing our health care coverage when the COVID emergency "ends?" When is school going to get better -- permanently, not just by accident? Check out what's being done to remedy these issues here and elsewhere around the 50 states, and be reminded about the irrelevent game-playing going on down in the National Capitol. It's enough to get you mad. It's enough to get you mad enough to organize and fight. For that, join Progressive Maryland.
Happy AAPI Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month everyone! This May, we celebrate and honor the rich history, culture, and contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Jewish Americans to our society. As we mark these important observances, we are reminded of the power of grassroots organizing and the importance of building solidarity across communities. We remain committed to highlighting the voices of those often left out of mainstream narratives and working to create a more inclusive and welcoming society for all.
So, let's celebrate this month by taking action and standing in solidarity with our communities. Read on for important updates on our chapter work and issue campaigns, as well as concrete actions you can take to make a difference. Together, we can build a better future for all.
Larry Hogan has for now ruled himself out of the contest to take the seat of departing Sen. Ben Cardin. Even in a state where he remained inexplicably popular despite his many policies that disadvantage working families and the poor, he may have realized that the data would catchup to him, as we see in the first story below about the Bay's decline on his watch.
We'll see if he continues to resist the temptation.
Meanwhile, see our whole News You Can Use roundup for this week, including People's Action fed watcher Megan E.'s thorough take on the stakes in the MAGA GOP's playing around with a default on the national debt.