After the third official federal holiday for Juneteenth, where does America stand? Where does Maryland stand? Here are some snapshots in News You Can Use. Inequality in the US persists and may even be growing -- across classes and ethnicities. It reflects itself in data on incomes, on health care, on education and on housing affordability. And there's, as always, a gap within the gap. More on that below, in News You Can Use.
The simple act of eating caused Carly Morton unbearable pain. When your doctor says a medical procedure can save your life, but your private insurance refuses to pay, where do you turn?
Health insurance companies like Morton’s, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), know the odds are in their favor when they deny care. Insurers don’t reveal how many claims they refuse to pay, but we know they reject a quarter of a billion claims every year from plans offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since ACA plans cover less than 5% of the U.S. population, the total number of denials is likely many times higher.
Here is the story of how many insurors break their promises to the insured with a playbook of weasel loopholes. And how People's Action's Care Over Cost campaign made a difference
As we find ourselves halfway through the month of June, it's a time of reflection, celebration, and renewed commitment to our shared values. With Juneteenth just around the corner and Pride events in full swing, we have important milestones to honor and opportunities to come together in solidarity.
In the spirit of celebration and solidarity, we are thrilled to announce that more Pride events have been added to our Pride Events section. These events serve as reminders of the vibrant and resilient spirit within our community, as we come together to celebrate love, diversity, and acceptance. However, amidst this joyous occasion, it is crucial to acknowledge the urgent state of emergency facing the LGBTQ+ community, as highlighted by the recent Human Rights Campaign report. The report sheds light on the alarming increase in hate crimes, discriminatory policies, and violence targeting LGBTQ+ individuals across the country. It serves as a poignant reminder that while Pride events celebrate progress, they also stand as a testament to the ongoing need for activism and advocacy to protect and advance the rights of all LGBTQ+ individuals.
Health remains on our minds even as we continue venturing out post-COVID, and some underreported progress is heartening. States are cleaning up as their legislatures have mostly sine die'd for summer (the US House shows multiple fractures and went home midweek to calm down, not rest on their laurels). Maryland continues to stay in the hunt for the new FBI headquarters despite cranky responses from the Bureau. So what else is new?... it's all progressive News You Can Use.
As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of Maryland politics, it's essential to stay grounded and keep our focus on the real issues that matter to us and our communities.
This week, we want to remind you of the importance of community organizing. It is through our grassroots efforts that we can make a lasting impact on the issues we care about. By coming together, we have the power to create meaningful change that reverberates far beyond the confines of our state. Read on for updates on our ongoing advocacy efforts, ways to get involved and news you can use. Additionally, we encourage you to explore the vibrant pride events happening across Maryland, as we continue to celebrate and uplift our LGBTQ+ community. .
Debt Limit Fiasco Dodged is the headline, so we can move back into ordinary news about Maryland, states and the country that was on hold while holding our breath for a debt deal. Maryland faces a tax increase on gas at the pump for converging reasons, while traffic gurus have varied solutions and profiteering power companies are warned that the new Gov has put easy corporate profits at risk. There's more, too, about those ordinary non-apocalypic worries like textbook censorship, combating hate crimes, those dodgy URLs on our license plates and protecting medical abortion. You'd be surprised what we are worrying about now that we can start worrying about those things again without that debt limit hanging over our media-stuffed heads. It's News You Can Use.
🏳️🌈A Poem For Pride🏳️⚧️
Here in Maryland, where rainbows soar,
There's a beautiful community we adore.
Pride in our colors is at our core.
What began at Stonewall has reached far more.
We fly our flags and take a stand
With Two-Spirit people on their Native Land.
We also make a strong demand
For the safety of every Black, Trans Woman.
Although we've come so far, we know,
The road is long and the journey is slow.
But we will protect Trans kids so that they can grow
And thrive in life wherever they go.
In Maryland, where love prevails,
Let's forge a path, let's blaze new trails;
And vow to push back when the system fails,
For freedom, love, and liberation–not jail.
From Western mountains to Chesapeake's shore,
This is our call for change, a mighty roar.
Affirmation and justice, among much more.
For basic needs and respect, we must ensure.
Whether Trans, Gay, Pan or Bi,
Together, hand in hand, we stride;
With strength and courage on our side.
We will not let the far right conquer our Pride.
The Queer community is under constant attack.
We endure violence and the hateful bills they stack.
Especially against those who are Trans, Brown or Black.
We are just looking to get our human dignity back.
This Pride Month, we must also celebrate
The joy and laughter and art we create.
Every Queer and Trans person was made perfect and great.
So hold on to the fact that love can conquer fear and hate.
And if you’re an ally, you have a place.
We need you in this fight, we want you in this space.
It takes every person from every race
To create the kind of world we yearn to embrace.
Here and now, we pledge anew
To fight for our community, for me and for you.
We can create change together, we know it’s true.
Here at PM, full equality we pursue.
The Progressive Maryland Team
As we near the end of May and prepare to step into June, we are excited at the arrival of Pride month and Immigrant Heritage Month. These commemorative periods provide us with invaluable opportunities to celebrate and uplift our LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities, embracing the diverse tapestry that makes Maryland vibrant and inclusive.
Pride month serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, equality, and acceptance. It is a time to celebrate the progress made, while recognizing the challenges that persist. Throughout June, our memo will highlight local Pride events, marches, panels, and workshops. We encourage you to join us in demonstrating our unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community and fostering a more inclusive society.
Similarly, immigrant heritage month allows us to reflect upon the invaluable contributions of immigrants to our state's culture, economy, and shared history. We will shine a spotlight on the strength and resilience of immigrant communities, while advocating for fair and just immigration policies.
Whether you’re an ally, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, an immigrant, or simply passionate about justice and equality, there is a role for you to play in advancing these causes. Together, let's make June a month of celebration, unity, and progress
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.