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
Even before the pandemic, our revenue system and state budgets had failed for decades to provide the true costs of vital and effective services, shortchanging our people and communities, and the workforce in nonprofits and government serving them.
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
State laws and other requirements that impede economic opportunity or unduly burden those living in poverty or communities of color, must be corrected. We support efforts to ‘decriminalize’ poverty and to assure meaningful implementation of criminal justice reforms recently enacted.
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.
Maryland must strengthen laws and programs to reduce gun violence across the state but particularly in urban areas. While this involves addressing underlying social issues and inequities, it must also include revising laws and regulations to maximum effectiveness within constraints imposed by recent Supreme Court decisions.
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
Many thousands of renters and homeowners across the state continue to face eviction or foreclosure due to the COVID-19 pandemic or pre-existing inequities. Earlier federal and state emergency assistance must be administered more quickly and efficiently, with easier access for people in distress. We need uniform statewide reporting and tracking of rental terminations and evictions, as well as adequate state support for necessary civil legal services for tenants.
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
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 are effectively excluded from opportunities to work, further their education, get to the doctor, access critical social services, and lead fulfilling lives. Greater transparency must be required by the State Coordinating Committee for Human Services Transportation.
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.
Protecting Marylanders' Health
While Maryland has taken significant steps in recent years to expand access to health care through Medicaid and other programs, COVID-19 and its variants have brought home continuing shortcomings.
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
Protect the Environment and it's Impact on Marylanders' Health
The quality of the environment also has a significant impact on the health of our communities. Public infrastructure and environmental hazards are typically placed in geographic proximity to communities with lower incomes and communities of color, and not in wealthier, predominantly white communities. We will support efforts to:
- 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
The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on communities and the economy have made the effective working relationship between the nonprofit sector and government at all levels even more critical in protecting and serving public needs. Unprecedented levels of pandemic and economic relief and investment are being provided by the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) and the Build Back Better Act. Yet many of these funds remain locked up inside more than 200 jurisdictions and governmental agencies in Maryland making it difficult to get the funds flowing to nonprofits serving communities. We need to have much faster, community-responsive, and accountable processes to support nonprofits meeting emergency and long-term needs throughout the state.
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.
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.
To join us in these efforts or to learn more about the issues, contact Henry Bogdan, Director of Public Policy.
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