Md. legislators worry timeline for two year COVID-19 recovery plan bill is unrealistic
MARYLAND – A $152.5 million Senate Bill is inching closer and closer to being signed into law. Senate Bill 741 would require the Maryland Department of Health to come up with and implement a two year COVID-19 recovery plan.
But here’s the catch: the deadline for that sweeping plan would be June 1st, which is less than two months away. “Part of my hesitation initially is we are still responding. You know what I mean? We’re still in the middle of it. So I thought it was a little bit much to expect these reports in June and December, and have all of this set up,” said State Senator Addie Eckardt.
Sen. Eckardt says she doesn’t think that timeline is realistic. Plus, she says, the Dept. of Health should have more flexibility on how they choose to spend the funding for the plan. “The down side, to me, is the timing, and the very prescriptive amount of money to be designated for different activities. The department is already doing a lot of that,” said Sen. Eckardt.
Sen. Eckardt says that flexibility would play a helpful role in figuring out how to best serve each part of the state. “We have to remember we are in a rural area. So, we don’t have the high density population as our other counties on the Western Shore experience. We all know that contagion is quicker through close groups of people,” said Sen. Eckardt.
Sen. Eckardt adds that many of the plan’s required initiatives are already being worked on through the state’s legislature and health agencies. “It’s kind of a work in progress. I think we already are doing much of this. But with the staff at the health departments being 24/7 practically for over a year now, to get a plan down in print, to me, is pretty ambitious,” said Sen. Eckardt.
But, Sen. Eckardt says she still thinks having the framework for a plan like that in place would be helpful for any challenges the state may face in the future. “We need to have a plan so we can develop something workable going forward. I don’t think this is going to be the only time we’re going to be responding to an emergency like this,” said Sen. Eckardt.
What Sen. Eckardt says she thinks will likely happen, is the Dept. of Health will start to put the plan together, and ask for a deadline extension. She says that extension could help fill in any missing information about how Maryland is spending its money. “The department won’t come in and say ‘We’ve not been able to do it’. We have a number of reports, as the budget was processed this year, that have not been completed,” said Sen. Eckardt.