2021 POLICY PRIORITIES
Events of the past year have dramatized and exacerbated the issues and policy challenges facing Maryland that must be addressed in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the recession it triggered, have made the fight for social justice and equity, and overcoming systemic racism and its continuing tragic costs, even more critical. Issues of public health and access to care, jobs and income supports to sustain all families, basic food and nutrition, and housing have reached crisis stage. Moving forward, our policies must address the crises that face us in these and other long-neglected areas, to advance the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion, so that all Marylanders can share in a prosperous and inclusive economy.
Promote Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Consideration of Public Policies
A just society in Maryland, and our future growth, well-being and economic prosperity can only be assured when everyone regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic background, gender identity, location, or disability, can share fairly in a prosperous and inclusive economy without race-based or other structural barriers that impede them. The failure to redress the continuing effects of systemic racism, economic unfairness, and other social inequities remains a challenge for the state and the nation.
Consideration of proposed policies, and review of current policy structures, should include the assessment of their direct and indirect impacts on the health, opportunities and quality of life of all affected individuals and communities. Particularly today this includes assuring that everyone is made aware of, and has full access to, all measures of assistance and relief from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The uncertainties surrounding the conduct, reporting, and utilization of the 2020 national census have again raised threats to the full and fair counting and political representation of those who have been traditionally under-counted or under-represented in the past. This must be corrected in 2021.
Reforms in Criminal Justice and Policing: Incidents of unfairness and brutality in justice and law enforcement over the past year have engendered outrage and focused attention nationally and in Maryland on the racism and inequity at their source. Task forces, workgroups and studies here and elsewhere are bringing forth proposals for reform and hopefully systemic change. Elected officials must act this year to correct long-standing policies and structures that have to long abetted this abuse and injustice.
Investment in People and Communities
An economy that works for all Marylanders requires strong and intentional state investment.
Even before the current recession, our revenue system and state budgets have failed to provide the true costs of many of these vital and effective services for more than a decade, shortchanging our people and communities. Lack of investment has created barriers to opportunity, especially among low-income people, communities of color, seniors and people living with disabilities.
Raise Revenue with More Fair Tax System: We will work to advance proposals of the Fair Funding Coalition and others that provide revenue to sustain and invest in critical public services and infrastructure. These include proposals to eliminate loopholes and tax breaks that benefit special interests, and to correct our upside-down tax code that allows the wealthiest to pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes.
“Saving” money by failing to invest in the needs listed below actually threatens a far greater cost to our long-term economic growth and the state’s quality of life.
- Full implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in education
- Workforce development
- Care and treatment of people with mental illnesses or physical disabilities
- Programs that empower seniors and youth,
- Vibrant arts and culture,
- Green infrastructure,
- Quality affordable childcare,
- Housing and transportation,
- Safety net services
- Community innovation and more!
Digital Inclusion: The need for quarantines and lock-downs has demonstrated that access to broadband communication has become a necessity rather than an amenity. In isolated, rural, but also even more urban environments, families without the ability or means to access broadband communication, more commonly in poor neighborhoods or communities of color, were essentially cut-off from critical services or opportunities: to find work, to work safely from home, to benefit from telehealth, to participate in remote learning, even to search for or receive critical information about health care, the disease, financial relief, social services, or food assistance.
Most of us could routinely access any of these on the internet. But as a result of development or community planning decisions, lack of affordable housing opportunities, or simply costs, it is an example of social or racial inequity that it was denied to so many families in the most critical of times.
Broadband, like utilities and means of transportation, is essential infrastructure. The State must establish an organizational structure assure that this is available and affordable for all.
Earned Income Tax Credit: The economic stress of recession is hardest on the worst-off in our communities. The Earned Income Tax Credit (“EITC”) has demonstrably been the most effective anti-poverty program for low-income families and individuals. We will continue to support further improvements of Maryland’s State EITC program in 2021.
Family and Medical Leave: The need to care for new children, other family members with serious health conditions or disabilities, or themselves, often conflicts with employment for the wage earner(s) in working families. The creation of a ‘Family and Medical Leave’ wage replacement insurance program would significantly ease these burdens, and we will join advocates in renewed efforts to have Maryland enact such a program.
Safe and Affordable Housing
In the best of times, securing safe, affordable housing is a challenge for a significant proportion of Maryland households. In recent years housing costs have risen while wages remained stagnant. For most first-time buyers that typical “starter home” is no longer affordable. Additionally, half of all renting households face housing costs that exceed 30% of their income. As with other challenges, the pandemic and recession are elevating this to an emergency – with eviction and foreclosure bans expiring, in winter, with COVID-19 rampaging and a vaccine not yet available to most. The State must respond, effectively, both to the pending crisis and the long-term threat that housing costs pose to the safety and well-being of low-income families, seniors and people living with disabilities.
Expanding Public Transit
The adequacy of transportation services and infrastructure, particularly public transit, has a substantial impact on our economy, as well as on nonprofits and the people they serve. As with other issues of opportunity or access, this too disproportionately impacts people with disabilities or disadvantaged by other social or racial inequities. From the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, people without access to private or public transit in some form are effectively being excluded from opportunities to work, to further their education, to get to the doctor, to access critical social services, and lead fulfilling lives.
Protecting Marylanders' Health and Environment
The pandemic demonstrated the tenuous capacity of our public health system, and tragically the ongoing disparities in health care, health outcomes, and susceptibility to disease based on race and income in our state. While Maryland has taken significant steps in recent years to expand access to health care through Medicaid and other programs, COVID-19 has brought home these shortcomings.
Maryland must commit to the health and well-being of all its citizens by improving its investment in:
- Equitable access to COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment,
- Programs that promote access to healthy food and exercise,
- Quality treatment options for those with substance use disorders,
- Smoking cessation programs,
- More effective services for those with physical or mental disabilities or illness, and
- Initiatives that ensure people with chronic conditions maintain strong health habits
- Reducing health disparities, by race, ethnicity, disability, and location to improve health equity
Protect the Environment and its Impact on Health of Marylanders: The quality of the environment also has a significant impact on the health of our communities. Public infrastructure, and environmental hazards often have disproportionate effects on low-income communities and communities of color. We will support of the efforts of the Maryland Public Health Association and others to reduce and eliminate threats to the health of all Maryland communities.
Healthy Climate Initiative: Investing in sustainable development and in growing our “green economy” has great potential for expanding jobs and protecting against both the impact of climate change and the health problems associated with pollution. Green investment promotes tourism and recreation and preserves the beauty and vitality of our state. We will support initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, invest in green infrastructure and energy-efficient transportation, and protect low- and moderate-income households from costs of the inevitable transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy.
Improving State Grants Process for Nonprofits
We will also continue efforts to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state grant and contract processes for the delivery of health, education and social services in the coming year, by monitoring and supporting the work of the new Maryland Efficient Grant Application Council created by legislation in pre-pandemic 2020.
By working together, nonprofits in Maryland are advancing and protecting the public interest of the people and communities we serve. The sector has a long history of advocating to move the needle on public policy issues. Our goal is to build on this rich tradition and broaden and strengthen the sector’s societal influence and impact.
This statement of principles guides Maryland Nonprofits’ public policy activities, its Public Policy Committee, and its staff, in working with policymakers at all levels of government, with the media, and the public. The principles do not prohibit us from engaging on other issues, rather they provide six broad policy goals for the organized nonprofit sector and specific steps that define and advance each goal.
We encourage you, the nonprofit community, to adopt or support these principles in your public policy and advocacy efforts.
Promote Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Consideration of Public Policies
Maryland’s future growth, well-being and economic prosperity can only be assured when everyone regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic background, gender identity, location, or disability, can share in a prosperous and inclusive economy without race-based or other structural barriers that impede them.
Consideration of proposed policies, and review of current policy structures, should include the assessment of their direct and indirect impacts on the health, opportunities and quality of life of all affected individuals and communities.
Advocate for Sufficient Public Investment in our Communities.
The purpose of government is to provide for and promote the general welfare of the people. The nonprofit community, being dedicated to the same goal, should be a leader in advocating policies that recognize and support the importance of appropriate public investment in community programs and services.
- Government budget and fiscal policies must provide sufficient resources to equitably and adequately meet this responsibility.
- Government operations and programs should be responsive, fair, effective, efficient and accountable.
- The system of raising adequate government revenues itself must be efficient and equitable and strive for progressivity.
Strengthen the Role and Participation of the Public in their Government.
The nonprofit sector should promote structures and policies that are conducive to effective public participation in the direction and affairs of government. The process of government must be open and subject to the control of the people and their elected representatives. Free expression is a basic right, but is meaningful only if the peoples’ voice has an effective means to be heard.
- The actions and mechanisms of all branches of government should be transparent and accessible to ensure the public’s involvement and understanding.
- Policy-making should be based on the input and best interests of the public and on decisions by their elected representatives. Traditionally disenfranchised groups must be supported and empowered, and the rights of vulnerable individuals must be protected.
- Elections must be conducted in a manner to promote and permit the fullest possible participation by voters, and to assure confidence that the people’s will rather than limited interests will govern election results and the actions of those elected.
- The public’s engagement with all aspects of government process must be encouraged.
Broaden the Involvement and Increase the Effectiveness of Nonprofits as Advocates for the People and Communities they Serve.
People form and support nonprofit organizations to assist individuals, to improve their communities, and to provide a more effective voice for their concerns in the public policy arena. Advocacy is an important and natural role for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are often the most, or only, effective means to educate the public on the actions of government and to voice the peoples’ views and concerns on public issues. Nonprofit advocacy is critical in preserving public confidence in the policy-making process.
- The nonprofit sector and its supporters must encourage greater participation by individual organizations as policy advocates for people and communities.
- The capacity of nonprofits to educate, represent and lead their constituencies on policy issues should be strengthened.
- Nonprofits should educate and encourage the public to participate in policy advocacy through effective nonprofit and community-based efforts.
- Challenges or impediments to the advocacy role of nonprofit organizations must be opposed and overcome at all levels of government.
- The public and the nonprofit community should be effectively represented on appropriate boards, commissions, councils and similar bodies established by government.
Promote and Strengthen the Nonprofit Sector's Relationship with Government.
Nonprofit organizations have traditionally performed a significant role in providing services to the public, complementing government programs or addressing needs not met by government action. Nonprofits also play a major part in implementing government programs or providing services on behalf of government. In addition, the nonprofit sector is a significant and growing force in the state’s overall economy. Nonprofits are responsible for more than 10% of private jobs in Maryland, employing more than 250,000 workers at the end of 2016. Public policies should acknowledge and strengthen this relationship, and recognize the nonprofit sector as an important factor in the state’s economic life.
- State contracting procedures should facilitate and not impede the efficient delivery of government services provided by nonprofits, and should sufficiently fund contracts for services.
- Economic development strategies, including programs to promote business and employment development, should recognize and include the nonprofit sector and the people and communities they represent.
- Tax policies that support and promote the charitable and nonprofit sector in the delivery of services and benefits to the public must be preserved.
- Public policies should protect and promote the integrity of “charitable” and “nonprofit” activities.
Increase Philanthropy and Volunteerism in Maryland.
Public policy should recognize and support the important role of private philanthropy and volunteer service in improving the lives of Maryland citizens and the quality of life in the State.
- Existing incentives for private philanthropy should be preserved.
- New methods to effectively and efficiently promote charitable giving and volunteer service should be examined and implemented.
- Government and the business and nonprofit communities should collaborate in developing effective programs to support philanthropy and volunteerism.
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