State Roundup: Unemployment system revamp proposed; state vaccination sites launch amid equity, access concerns

State Roundup: Unemployment system revamp proposed; state vaccination sites launch amid equity, access concerns photo

UNEMPLOYMENT REFORM PROPOSED: Democratic leaders of General Assembly Thursday unveiled the framework of a broad legislative package aimed at reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter. The legislation comes as thousands of Marylanders have been waiting for months to be approved for benefits and at a time when call center waits are so extensive that many have simply given up on trying to get a representative on the phone.

  • The governor’s office pushed back, saying that what is being proposed is a “Band-Aid” and does not address the complicated system set up by past laws, Brian Witte reports for the AP.
  • Maryland has “fallen woefully short of meeting federal guidelines, which requires 87% of applicants to receive their first payment within 14 to 21 days after applying,” Ovetta Wiggins writes for the Post. In the fourth quarter of 2020, Maryland was at 27.9%.
  • About 39,000 people are still waiting for their unemployment insurance claim to be processed, Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.
  • Legislators say they’ve been inundated with calls from constituents in “adjudication purgatory” for months, and the people waiting highlight the need for a new vision for the program, Bryan Sears writes for The Daily Record.

MASS SITES OPEN UP, LOCALS REPORT DROP IN VACCINE AVAILABILITY: Two of Maryland’s mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are opening Friday, Shen Wu Tan reports for The Washington Times.

  • They will require appointments and be located in the Baltimore Convention Center and Six Flags America in Largo, Prince George’s County, Jayne Miller reports for WBAL-TV.
  • As large state-run sites and private companies are ramping up vaccination efforts, the Frederick County Health Department continues to be concerned about equity as some people who have time and a vehicle to drive farther may be able to access vaccines faster, Greg Swatek writes for The Frederick News-Post.
  • Local health departments have complained that the number of doses they get from the state has been cut almost in half as Maryland is set to open its two big vaccination sites, leaving local sites empty due to lack of doses, Mike Hellgren reports for WJZ.
  • Jean Marbella of the Sun questions whether the state will ever have one place to register for vaccines like in other states, instead of going on an “online scavenger hunt”for doses.
  • Maryland’s local health departments will receive more than $114 million to help fund COVID-19 vaccination efforts and support equitable access and distribution of vaccines, Marcus Dieterle reports for Baltimore Fishbowl.

RASKIN INVITES TRUMP TO D.C., IS REBUKED: As impeachment manager, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin was in the spotlight after sending a letter to former President Donald Trump inviting him to testify at the upcoming impeachment hearing, Suzanne Pollack writes for Montgomery Community Media. Trump, declining, called it “your latest public relations stunt.”

  • In a satiric take, Andy Borowitz for The Atlantic offers a portrait of what would have happened had Trump accepted Raskin’s offer “excitedly” as a chance to star in a new TV show.
  • And Adam Pagnucco blogs for Seventh State “Think of the ratings, Donald! Joe Biden will never match them!”

RESPONSE STRATEGIES FOR THE MINIMUM OFFER PRICE RULE (MOPR): The current FERC order directs the PJM Interconnection to expand its Minimum Offer Price Rule to most of the state-subsidized capacity resources. The order will significantly impact the capacity market which serves Maryland ratepayers. How will regulators and utilities find common ground in responding to the order? What is FRR and how will it affect the FERC order? Join the discussion on February 8, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, during the Maryland Clean Energy Center’s 2021 Policy Watch Series. Advance registration is required.

ADDING AID FOR CHILDCARE PROVIDERS: Some state lawmakers are pressing to include childcare providers in a COVID-19 relief act, as 49% of child care providers reported to the Maryland Family Network that they may have to close without assistance, Elizabeth Shwe writes for Maryland Matters.

ANTON’S LAW PROPOSAL WOULD MAKE MORE POLICE RECORDS PUBLIC: Maryland legislators have introduced a bill that could allow public access to police officers’ disciplinary records, Jacob Steinberg reports for the Capital News Service. Called Anton’s Law, the proposal is named after 19-year-old Anton Black, who died while in police custody in Greensboro, Maryland, in 2018.

KUSHNER’S CASE GOES TO JUDGE: The case against the apartment management company of former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is now before an administrative law judge after months of testimony, Jeff Barker and Alison Knezevich report for the Sun.

BILL TO LEGALIZE CANNIBIS INTRODUCED: Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chair Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) has filed legislation with a powerful set of cosponsors to legalize adult-use cannabis, Hannah Gaskill reports for Maryland Matters. The bill would pump funding into communities that have been adversely impacted by its current criminalization.

SOCIALLY DISTANT RALLY TAKES PLACE IN ANNAPOLIS: Activists descended on Lawyers Mall on Thursday afternoon, socially distancing and wearing black fabric “LIFE” masks to protest abortion and advocate for access to care from conception to natural death, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Capital Gazette.

BILL WOULD PAY INMATES MINIMUM WAGE FOR WORK IN JAILS: Maryland inmates make as little as $0.17 per hour for voluntary prison employment and training, a stipend that one lawmaker compared to “slave labor” in support of legislation that would require the state to pay more.

SENATE REPUBLICANS TAKE ON ELECTION INTEGRITY: State Sen. Justin Ready, R-Carroll County, is hoping to address election integrity as a top issue and the Senate Republican Caucus presented a legislative package Thursday to do just that, Bob Blubaugh reports for the Carroll County Times.

RESTAURANT RESTRICTIONS CHANGING IN FREDERICK, MONTGOMERY: Restaurant regulations are being relaxed slightly in Frederick County, as Executive Jan Gardner ordered that bars and restaurants will be able to stay open past 10 p.m., Steve Bohnel reports for The Frederick News-Post. But bars and restaurants won’t be able to serve alcohol or have live entertainment past 10 p.m.  Gov. Larry Hogan had relaxed the 10 p.m. restriction last month, but local leaders have authority to implement more stringent regulations.

  • Restaurant owners are puzzled by a proposed one-hour time limit on indoor dining as Montgomery County considers allowing indoor dining to reopen at 25% capacity, Dan Schere reports for Bethesda Beat.

CONGRESSIONAL REPS TURN EYE TO USPS DELIVERY FAILURES: With constituent complaints about mail delays piling up, Maryland’s congressional Democrats are calling for the U.S. Postal Service to take action and resolve delivery issues, Christine Condon reports for the Sun.

FORECLOSURE BAN EXTENDED AGAIN: The Maryland Department of Labor’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation has announced the extension of a moratorium on new residential foreclosures through Feb. 28, the staff of the Garrett County Republican reports.

OBJECTIONS TO BELTWAY WIDENING PLAN: Expanding the beltway and I-270 would “shortchange transit,” increase vehicle emissions and hurt parkland, a regional planning agency is objecting, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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