2023 POLICY PRIORITIES
A just and equitable society in Maryland, and our future growth, well-being, and economic prosperity can only be assured when everyone – with regard to 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.
Despite the apparent easing of pandemic conditions and availability of unprecedented revenues, for many families and individuals in Maryland access to health care, basic food and nutrition, housing, and meaningful employment or income supports are still critical challenges.
We must use every opportunity to redress the continuing effects of systemic racism, economic unfairness, and other social inequities that have led to these disparities in the quality of life for so many. Our policies and budget allocations and investments should include the assessment of their direct and indirect impacts on the health, opportunities, and quality of life of all affected individuals and communities.
Investment in Government and Nonprofit Services, Workforce and Infrastructure
In recent years the state government workforce has eroded, state government’s technology and business processes have fallen far behind the evolving economy. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, job vacancies have spiked, and recruitment and retention have cratered. State agencies on the front lines of service delivery are no longer able to accomplish their basic functions within reasonable time frames. These include the basic activities of agencies – serving customers, conducting inspections, enforcing legal requirements, and so on. It also includes the administrative work essential to a functioning enterprise: paying invoices, procuring services and goods, providing public information, or responding to complaints and requests.
Especially since the pandemic, nonprofit service providers have been struggling to support and sustain their workforce in the face of inadequate funding and reimbursement rates. These providers play a crucial role in supporting those with disabilities and providing behavioral and mental healthcare, childcare, and senior services. While the current budget provided some relief service reimbursements and wage rates for nonprofits must keep pace with mandated staffing requirements and the real competitive costs of hiring, developing, and retaining staff with required certifications and training.
It is critical to apply federal relief, technology and infrastructure funding, as well as state surpluses, towards improving the ongoing capacity of both state agencies and their nonprofit partners to meet the needs of Marylanders, particularly people and communities suffering the effects of systemic racism and social inequities. A grant program of general support for new and growing nonprofits is needed to nurture the growth of self-led development in these oppressed communities.
Critical Needs Include:
- Adequate funding of state services, including wages and benefits of the nonprofit workforce implementing state programs
- Continued and increasing support for affordable childcare, both to providers and working families
- Continued implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future in education, with renewed attention on the increasing support for Latino and other minority students hard hit by COVID-19
- Adequately funding and increasing access for care and treatment of people with physical or behavioral health needs or disabilities, and addressing the crisis in paratransit services
- Addressing the crisis in housing stability and opportunity for both renters and homeowners
- Sustaining increased SNAP benefits and providing free school and “out of school time” nutrition programs for all students
- Continued Improvement of ‘safety net’ support for both temporary cash (“TCA”) and disability (“TDAP”) assistance recipients
- Provide sustainable funding for emergency rental assistance and for renters at risk of eviction
- Critical technology and physical infrastructure and environmental needs
- Commitment and follow-though on the promise of ‘digital inclusion’ for all Maryland families
- Workforce development, including transportation to access employment opportunities
- Maintaining the “Quality of Life” services and amenities that are critical to Maryland’s competitiveness and economic growth, such as vibrant arts and culture, programs that empower seniors and youth.
Specific initiatives we support include:
Create a New $100m Unrestricted Grant Fund for Small & Mid-Sized Nonprofits: Maryland’s small and mid-sized nonprofits comprise 94% of all nonprofit organizations and receive under 8% of all revenue in the sector. Maryland Nonprofits is advocating for the allocation of funding and the creation of a new statewide intermediary organization to administer new grant funding for nonprofits and to take on, where appropriate, the grantmaking and contracting functions currently handled by other government agencies.
Make Improvements to the EITC and Child Tax Credits Permanent: Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit was significantly improved by legislation in 2021, but these improvements, broadening eligibility and amounts, and allowing it for those with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (“ITIN”), applied only for Tax Years 2021 and 2022. These must be made permanent, particularly with respect to ITIN filers – primarily immigrants – who already file and pay Maryland income taxes.
Ensure Provider Funding for Family and Medical Leave: While Maryland has committed to a Maryland ‘Family and Medical Leave’ wage replacement insurance program, at the same time many nonprofit service providers are already facing critical staffing shortages and are already, or at the brink of, reducing the number of those they can legally serve. State funding must provide the resources for continuity of service and staffing levels in public program providers.
Advance Tax Fairness: The priority for any changes to our tax system should be greater fairness and equity. This should include eliminating loopholes and tax breaks that benefit special interests and correcting our ‘upside-down’ tax code that allows the wealthiest to pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes.
Social Justice, Diversity and Representation
With voter approval of Ballot Question 4 on November 8, legislation enacted this year will take effect beginning the process of decriminalizing and legalizing the ‘personal use’ of cannabis by adults. We will support advocates working to improve the legislation’s provisions to redress the systemically racist impacts of criminal drug enforcement laws.
Several bills on reparations for slavery were introduced in the 2021 legislative session but did not pass. Maryland Nonprofits supports the work of advocates to advance reparations at the state level for people impacted by the legacy of slavery.
Bilingual services should be prioritized across government agencies and funded to ensure that goals set by the state for services provided can be met in all under-served communities. Gaps should be filled in bilingual and culturally competent staff in all areas that provide community services, including primary and mental health care.
The membership of State boards, commissions, and other appointed regulatory, study or advisory bodies should include voices representative of the communities whose interests are affected and should also reflect the diversity of the state’s population.
Community and nonprofit representation are critical in human services, arts, and the environment.
For victims of sexual assault and violence, adequate funding for survivor services must be sustained, and safe harbor provided for minor victims of sex trafficking. Archaic laws such as allowing marriage as a defense to sex crimes should be repealed.
As more women from other states seek reproductive health services in Maryland, protection for prospective patients and the staff of health facilities and rape crisis or other counseling centers must receive heightened attention and necessary resources.
Housing Relief and Path to Homeownership
Too many Marylanders have been priced out of opportunities for adequate and safe rental housing and potential homeownership. In the longer term, there should be state coordination of incentives and assistance for housing production with transit services and development planning to assure the availability of affordable housing and pathways to homeownership that are accessible to people who face housing instability.
Transforming and Improving Public Transit
We support the Transforming Maryland Transit agenda and immediate action to resolve the crisis in paratransit services across the state. We must also ensure the community’s voice is heard in the implementation of forthcoming federal infrastructure funding.
Protect the Environment and it's Impact on Marylanders' Health
- Assure that decision-making for the location of potential environmental threats includes thorough health and equity assessments to avoid disproportionate health and economic impacts on communities with lower incomes and communities of color.
- Strengthen enforcement of water quality, stormwater runoff, and Chesapeake Bay protection regulations
- Restrict or prohibit the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides
Healthy Climate Initiative: Investing in sustainable development and 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 also support the creation of a funding program to assist nonprofits with renewable energy improvements.
We will continue to support efforts to protect households with low- and moderate-incomes from the costs of the inevitable transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy.
Strengthen the Partnership Between Government and the Nonprofit Community
Nonprofit organizations represent the majority of the state’s human service delivery system, often having greater experience dealing with, and awareness of, community needs. State agencies should seek more collaborative rather than adversarial relationships with nonprofit service providers. We will continue and expand Maryland Nonprofits’ efforts to provide nonprofits a systemic seat at the policymaking table and to educate and encourage public officials in recognizing nonprofits as partners and critical resources in serving and meeting public needs.
We will 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 Maryland Efficient Grant Application Council created by legislation in 2020, and other efforts at the state and local levels to address backlogs in grants, contracts and payments caused by outdated, bureaucratic systems.
State procurement law and regulations require prompt payment and include late payment penalties – but these do not apply to reimbursements under contractual “grant agreements” for the provision of human and social services. Delays and hardships not tolerated in procurement should be similarly regulated when nonprofit providers are implementing state programs and serving state clients. We will support legislation to achieve “prompt payment parity” (applying procurement contract payment rules to state grants), as well as greater funding for the Nonprofit Interest-free Microbridge Loan (“NIMBL”) program to assist providers with payment delays.
Protecting Marylanders' Health
Maryland must commit to the health and well-being of all its residents by providing:
- Equitable and free or affordable access to public health services at the local level, such as testing, vaccines and treatments
- For the elimination of health disparities, by race, ethnicity, disability, location, and other factors to improve health equity
- Broad investment in a coordinated community behavioral health system
- Renewal or replacement of expiring funding for Health Equity Resource Communities, the state’s reinsurance program, and youth health coverage
- Programs that promote access to healthy food and exercise including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch Program, Afterschool and Summer Meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to combat food insecurity
- More effective services, and elimination of waiting lists, for those with physical or mental disabilities or illness
- Initiatives that ensure people with chronic conditions maintain strong health habits
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
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.
- 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 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.
Promote and Strengthen the Nonprofit Sector's Relationship with Government.
- 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.
- 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.
Broaden the Involvement and Increase the Effectiveness of Nonprofits as Advocates for the People and Communities they Serve.
- 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.
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