BALTIMORE — Relief payments for qualifying Marylanders are expected to begin arriving Friday, according to Comptroller Peter Franchot.

In a virtual press conference held Tuesday, Franchot and members of his staff provided details on the payments program. The Maryland Relief Act was passed by the legislature Friday and signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday.

Officials hope the payments will alleviate financial pressure caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Described as direct stimulus for low- to moderate-income Marylanders, the payments are $500 for families and $300 for individuals who filed for the Earned Income Tax Credit on their 2019 tax returns.

About 423,000 citizens will be eligible for payments under the program, according to the comptroller’s office.

“I know that time is critical and many families are in desperate need right now,” Franchot said. “We are committed to get these payments into the pockets of eligible recipients as quickly as possible. This morning we started this by pushing the button on 266,985 electronic payments. Those payments have a value of $113.6 million. They should be posted to their bank accounts by the end of this week.”

The annual income limits to qualify under the Maryland Relief Act are as follows:

  • $50,954 ($56,844 married filing jointly) with 3 or more children
  • $47,440 ($53,330 married filing jointly) with 2 children
  • $41,756 ($47,646 married filing jointly) with 1 child
  • $15,820 ($21,710 married filing jointly) with no children

Franchot said 98% of the total payments, including physical checks, are expected to be issued by Feb. 19.

Franchot, who will run for governor in 2022, registered his displeasure with the legislation, calling it a “very narrow relief plan” that ultimately “leaves out so many people who are suffering right now.”

“We have consistently advocated for a bold and adequate plan to meet the monumental challenges people are facing,” said Franchot. “I applaud the House and Senate for improving the governor’s bill, but I feel very strongly that it falls far, far short of the goal of genuine relief. We are the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world and we have the means in Maryland and the obligation to do more for Marylanders and small businesses that are struggling to keep their heads above water.”

Franchot said the payments wouldn’t “make a dent” in the problem.

“Instead of meager payments of $300 or $500, we have indicated that they should provide a $2,000 one-time payment for low-wage earners with children to tide them over until the federal stimulus comes in March or whenever it comes,” he said.

The legislation also addresses unemployment benefits by repealing the associated customary state and local income taxes. Individuals who filed and are still awaiting their unemployment benefits will also receive a one-time $1,000 payment between March and July.

Small business relief will also be available in the form of $300 million in sales tax credits, which could save qualifying business up to $12,000 over a four-month period.

Franchot said he was also disappointed the Relief Act funds would come from Maryland’s general fund. He advocated for a one-time debt obligation.

The comptroller said the state relief plan should not be confused with the federal stimulus program.

“I want to emphasize, this plan we are doing now is a very small program,” he said. “It is not what you think of when you think of the federal stimulus checks going to a large group of people; that is not what this is. It is a very narrow relief plan for yes, some deserving people. But it leaves out so many people who are suffering. It is inexplicable that we turn our backs on them.”

Franchot also spoke to the Times-News in an interview following the press conference. He said that a robust relief plan was needed so “the recession that has hit the lower third of families will not spread into the middle class.”

Those wishing to see if they qualify for a relief payment can visit the web portal Marylandtaxes.gov/RELIEFact or call 1-833-345-0787.

Greg Larry is a reporter at Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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