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House Committee Opens COVID-19 Relief Funds To Immigrants

Rachel Baye

The COVID-19 relief bill making its way through the Maryland General Assembly has been amended to make funds available to immigrants — both legal residents and those without legal status in the United States.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Thursday to expand eligibility to people who pay Maryland taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN.

House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, presenting the bill and the amendment on the House floor Friday morning, called it an “easy decision.”


“There are people in this state who need help — many of them. Some of the ones who are most in need of help are the people that are affected by this amendment,” he said. 


Although immigrants pay Maryland taxes, they do not qualify for most federal pandemic relief funding. 


“While our constituents have been calling us desperately trying to access unemployment insurance benefits, most of these folks aren't even eligible for them,” Luedtke said. “These folks aren't eligible for a lot of the safety net programs that are keeping kids fed, keeping people in their houses.”


However, the change could cost the bill — which is sponsored by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and which the Senate passed unanimously — Republican support. 


“I'm really disappointed that this poison pill had to be put in to cause division and strife amongst the members of the Maryland General Assembly,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga.


Without this amendment, she said, the bill would likely receive unanimous support in the House. 


At the request of House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, the vote on the bill was delayed until Friday afternoon. 


Reached by phone after Friday morning’s debate, Kipke said Republicans plan to offer amendments to the bill. Among them, he said, Republicans are prepared to offer an amendment allowing legal residents who file taxes with ITINs to qualify for benefits, but not immigrants who lack legal status.


Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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