The Working Families Party and the nonprofit Progressive Maryland are using a billboard truck to spread their message about what legislation they want state lawmakers to pass to help Marylanders struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The truck made stops throughout Maryland on Monday and Tuesday as part of a tour that was organized by the Working Families Party and Progressive Maryland.
With the pandemic limiting public testimony on bills and banning rallies and lobbying visits, Progressive Maryland digital communications manager Christianne Marguerite said advocates have had to come up with socially-distanced ways of relaying their messages to community members and elected officials — like a billboard truck tour.
“We were looking to amplify the voices of Marylanders who are suffering as a result of COVID and who need relief from the state to help them meet their basic human needs,” Marguerite said.
The truck is touring the legislative districts of lawmakers whom Progressive Maryland and the Working Families Party expect to have sway over COVID-19 legislation in the 2021 legislative session, which begins Wednesday.
In addition to the truck displaying photos of Marylanders who have been impacted by the economic and public health crisis, organizers have also been speaking with community members and collecting stories about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives.
The groups will also deploy a truck around Annapolis on Wednesday to showcase videos of community members sharing their stories.
“We are looking to elevate stories from everyday Marylanders who need help during this terrible moment in our history,” Marguerite said. “People need help with housing, employment, food, utilities, health care, mental health, etc. The Maryland General Assembly has been out of session for nearly a year and this is an opportunity for state residents to make their case for the help they desperately need for themselves and their families.”
The Working Families Party and Progressive Maryland are advocating for lawmakers to pass several pieces of legislation on the People’s Recovery Agenda, including the Essential Workers Protection Act, the Medical Debt Protection Act, the Health Equity Fund Bill, the Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures, and the Secure Maryland Wage Act.
Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday announced The Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs and Families (RELIEF) Act, which will be introduced on Wednesday.
If the state legislature passes the RELIEF Act, it would provide about $1 billion in tax relief and economic aid to Marylanders and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Marguerite said Hogan’s bill is “too little too late.”
“The governor sat by and wasted time and money on publicity stunts like the unusable tests acquired from South Korea while failing to address the basic needs of Marylanders,” she said. “He failed to fix the state’s unemployment system to speed desperately needed funds; people are still waiting to get the benefits due to them.”
Although Marguerite said the RELIEF Act would help low-income Marylanders and businesses in the short term, she said it would not satisfy the long-term needs that Progressive Maryland and the Working Families Party are advocating for.
“It doesn’t provide higher wages, sick leave, access to healthcare for those without insurance benefits for our essential workers, so it’s missing that entire component of the People’s Recovery Agenda,” she said.