While the General Assembly Session has ended, important work in the community continues. Here are highlights of my efforts on vaccine access and utility assistance.
I continue to work at both the policy and direct service levels to ensure all our community members receive the vaccine. The virus hit some communities much harder than others, revealing some of the many health disparities in our society. Advocating with the Maryland Department of Health and working with my colleagues in the General Assembly, I sought to ensure moving forward that Maryland distributes vaccines equitably. In the past month, I have helped sponsor a number of targeted vaccine clinics in communities hardest hit by COVID. The grassroots groups I am working with have engaged directly with community members who may have trouble accessing the standard vaccine sign up system. We have gone door to door, called people directly, and signed people up at food distribution events. If you want to help volunteer with this effort, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s achieve herd immunity with equity!
I am also working with the state’s Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) to extend their benefits to more Marylanders. OHEP provides financial assistance for home energy needs from two sources: grants from the federal government and another separate program funded by Maryland rate-payers. One problem is the state program requires people who pay their utilities through a third party (landlord or condominium fees) to pay into the fund, but those ratepayers don’t currently have access to that fund. I am working with OHEP to change these regulations.
Ironically, OHEP created another problem when it streamlined its process so people only had to fill out one application to access both the federal and state funds. While this works for many, it has the unintended result of excluding some of our most vulnerable families. The federal program requires individuals to provide a social security number, but the state program does not. I am working with OHEP to change the application so there is an option to apply only for the state program if someone does not have a social security number.
As always, if you or anyone you know needs assistance, please contact my office at email@example.com. You can also leave a message at (410)-841-3423. However, please note my office will not be staffed five days per week until the next Session.