Franchot Promises Swift RELIEF Payments
State Comptroller Peter Franchot vowed Tuesday to distribute by the end of the week nearly all of the stimulus payments promised under the pandemic relief package passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor.
At the same time, however, he was sharply critical of the measure.
Franchot has been pushing a stimulus plan that would send $2,000 checks to about 450,000 Maryland residents. Gov. Larry Hogan and the legislature rejected that in favor of a plan that includes payments of $300 for individuals and $500 for couples who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit when they filed their 2019 federal taxes. That would affect about 423,000 Marylanders.
In a morning news conference, Franchot repeatedly referred to the bill as “the so-called RELIEF Act” and called the payments meager.
“No one can seriously think that a few hundred dollars or a $300 check is going to make a dent in the mountain of debt that's been accumulated over the past year by many of these wonderful Maryland families and citizens,” he said.
He praised the General Assembly for “improving the governor’s bill,” but said it falls “far, far short of the goal of genuine relief.”
Lawmakers increased the amount of the tax credit for the next three years and added $520 million in programs to Hogan’s original bill, including grants to restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, agricultural businesses and nonprofits; money for people struggling to pay rent or utility bills; grants for people waiting on pending unemployment benefits; and money to help schools cover the costs of returning to in-person instruction.
A provision that would have allowed immigrants who lack Social Security numbers and instead file taxes using an individual tax identification number, or ITIN, was inserted in a House committee, but later removed when it appeared it would slow the bill’s progress.
Those taxpayers, a group that includes immigrants with and without legal status, aren’t allowed to claim the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.
Democrats in the General Assembly have pledged to pass a bill to include ITIN taxpayers in the state’s portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit program. It’s moving in the Senate next week.
Franchot said the governor and General Assembly were obligated to do more for those “struggling to keep their heads above water.” He pointed to “tens of thousands of immigrant families who paid more than $100 million last year in state taxes and local taxes alone” but were “left out completely” when the House dropped the ITIN provision.