Helping the Vulnerable
Montgomery County has a large population of vulnerable people. More than 60,000 county residents live in poverty. Over 16,000 households receive SNAP benefits (food assistance). And more than 100,000 people have no health insurance coverage. The county has a very large Health and Human Services budget to help people in need (currently $261 million) but I decided to do more.
Montgomery County is one of a handful of local jurisdictions in the nation that has its own Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which we call our Working Families Income Supplement. The EITC is one of the country’s most effective anti-poverty programs. It puts money directly into the pockets of low-income households who need it most, helping them to pay for education, health care, food, utilities and other needs.
Traditionally, we matched the State of Maryland’s EITC to ensure that our low-income residents could deal with our high cost of living. However, before I came to office, the Great Recession caused the county to cut it by a third. That was the wrong thing to do. I authored and passed a bill to fully restore the EITC. Once again, we will honor our commitment to help our citizens who need it most.
Until recently, Montgomery County and the State of Maryland used the federal minimum wage of $7.25. As we have some of the highest costs of living in the country, that is simply not a high enough wage to survive on. I voted in favor of legislation to move to a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour and I would like to see the state follow suit.
Protecting Displaced Workers
Building service workers are sometimes fired en masse when their contractors are terminated. As they are often low-paid, this threatens to put their families in significant distress. I cast the deciding vote in favor of legislation to give these workers a 90-day transition period with new employers to ensure that they could not be summarily terminated.