Maryland Rejects COVID Stimulus Payments to Illegal Aliens… For Now
FAIR Take | February 2021
In a marathon session on February 11 and 12, Maryland’s state legislature briefly looked likely to either hand out taxpayer “stimulus” money to illegal aliens in a COVID-19 relief bill or not to pass any relief at all. Yet with intervention by Governor Larry Hogan (R) and others, funds will now be available to help the citizens, legal immigrants, and businesses suffering from the pandemic and lockdowns and not go to those with no right to be here.
The Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF Act), Senate Bill (SB) 496, was introduced on January 20 and had sailed through the legislative process with bipartisan support. The bill included direct cash stimulus payments of $300 for individuals and up to $500 for families, if they qualified and filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2019.
The EITC is a per-child tax credit meant to support lower-income taxpayers. In order to claim the credit, a Social Security Number (SSN) is required ensuring the taxpayer or their claimed dependent is a US citizen or legal immigrant. Illegal aliens do not qualify for SSNs and are issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) by the IRS to file their taxes.
The bipartisanship support for the Maryland RELIEF Act ground to a halt on February 11 when the House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery County), responding to a protest by CASA de Maryland (an open-borders advocacy group), pushed an amendment which would have made ITIN filers, i.e., illegal aliens, eligible for the stimulus payments. Luedtke said his amendment would add about $30 million to the cost of the bill and provide payments to roughly 60,000 illegal aliens who otherwise would be ineligible.
The amendment nearly derailed the bill altogether. Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County/Harford County), the House Minority Whip, described the amendment as a “poison pill” and noted that prior to its introduction, “everybody was swimming in the same direction.” Governor Hogan said “the change threatened the entire RELIEF Act, which also includes millions of dollars in housing and food relief, business aid and other spending,” a clear indication that he would’ve vetoed the bill if it included the amendment. Even Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) said he thought the amendment “would not be viable.”
Ultimately, the amendment was withdrawn on February 12 and the bill passed both chambers overwhelmingly. It was sent to Governor Hogan who signed it on February 15. Senator Michael Hough (R-Frederick), the Senate Minority Leader, called it “not a perfect bill, compromises are never perfect … but nonetheless I think this is a good bill overall.”
House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) indicated in a joint statement that legislation making illegal aliens eligible for Maryland’s state EITC would be forthcoming shortly. Their statement suggests that both chambers might have the numbers to expand the state’s eligibility requirement for EITC and override a possible veto by Governor Hogan.
At least for the moment, Maryland has not acceded to the demands of open-borders advocates to provide a new benefit for illegal aliens.