In The News

August 10, 2020

Frustrated lawmakers made surprise visits Monday to post offices in Dundalk and Essex, as the U.S. Postal Service said it was reviewing its staffing following complaints of severe mail delivery delays in the Baltimore area. “They need a lot more people,” U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County said after speaking to customers and managers at the two postal facilities. “It’s a mess. We are setting ourselves up for a perfect storm as more Americans turn to mail.” The Postal Service said in a statement that it would make any needed “adjustments.” Ruppersberger, a Democrat, said his office has received dozens of constituent complaints, particularly about service in Dundalk. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat, recently joined other federal lawmakers in expressing concern that new cost-reduction policies will reduce delivery trips, potentially leaving mail on docks or workroom floors.

August 5, 2020

The University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, which aids survivors of human trafficking in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, was awarded $500,000 in federal funding. The SAFE Center operates in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to provide housing assistance to survivors of human trafficking. “The Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the need for stable, supportive housing for survivors,” according to U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and U.S. Representatives Jamie Raskin, John Sarbanes, Steny Hoyer and David Trone. “Through a thoughtful and trauma-informed approach, the SAFE Center will use these funds to continue helping survivors of human trafficking live independently – permanently. Maryland is fortunate to have the SAFE Center as a resource both to assist survivors and to prevent further trafficking, and we will keep supporting these crucial efforts in Congress,” the Maryland legislators wrote in a news release…. The SAFE Center is involved with direct services, research and advocacy for sex and labor trafficking survivors.

July 31, 2020

Maryland officials Maryland’s congressional delegation is asking for an additional $32 billion in coronavirus relief funding for U.S. public transit systems — and for a larger share to go to transit systems serving mid-sized cities, such as Baltimore, where people depend heavily on the regional buses and trains. Public transit is an essential government service, and additional aid “is necessary to sustain operations across the country,” U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and U.S. Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Kweisi Mfume and John Sarbanes said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Friday. “This additional funding will help prevent cuts to service and potential layoffs of local government employees and ensure that essential workers can continue to get to their jobs,” the letter said. The $392 million in funding the Maryland Transit Administration received from the CARES Act is expected to run out in September. With revenues from taxes, fees and transit fares down significantly during the pandemic, the agency faced a $550 million shortfall at the end of the last fiscal year — and it expects another one just as large in the next year. A lack of additional funding could jeopardize the transit system that riders “have come to depend on as safe, reliable and equitable,” said Maryland Transit Administration Administrator Kevin Quinn…. The congressional delegation’s request for funding joined a chorus of calls from transit advocates, who say funding is critical for the future of the MTA and other public transit systems across the country.

July 31, 2020

The Census Bureau is cutting short critical door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census amid growing concerns among Democrats in Congress that the White House is pressuring the bureau to wrap up counting soon for political gain, NPR has learned.... Asked by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., if he was aware that the Trump administration reportedly wants to wrap up counting quickly so that the president can receive the census apportionment numbers by the end of the year, Dillingham replied: "I'm not aware of all the many reasons except to say that the Census Bureau and others really want us to proceed as rapidly as possible." But top career officials at the bureau — including Tim Olson, the associate director for field operations — have publicly warned since May that the agency can no longer meet the current deadlines.

July 30, 2020

President Donald Trump’s pitch to delay the Nov. 3 presidential election “reeks of desperation” and is an ill-conceived attempt to smear the sort of mail-in voting that Maryland employed in its June primary, Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation said Thursday. Trump should “cease his attempts to delegitimize mailed ballots and stop sowing discord over the integrity of our elections,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat…. Trump has often said without evidence that there is widespread voter fraud during mail-in voting. Democrats counter that he is wary of voting by mail because it elevates voter turnout. “Widespread voter fraud is a myth,” said Sarbanes, who called the election delay suggestion “absurd.”

July 30, 2020

The president last week instructed the Census Bureau to calculate a new set of population data to use in the rebalancing of U.S. House seats among the states. The new numbers would include only U.S. citizens and foreigners living in the country legally, but not unauthorized immigrants. It would be the first time that the Census used two sets of books to measure the full population and the population for reapportioning the U.S. House. There’s one big hitch in Trump’s plans, though: The Census Bureau isn’t asking people about their citizenship status in the 2020 count, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the Trump administration could not do so. U.S. House Democrats and several former directors of the U.S. Census Bureau, who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, warned that the move from the Trump administration could discourage immigrants from participating in the survey altogether. That would further jeopardize the success of the Census, which is already running several months behind because of the coronavirus pandemic…. “This is not a Democratic power-grab,” countered U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 3rd District. “This is a patriotic process we engage in every 10 years… What we’re hearing [from former Census directors] is that the politics need to be kept away from this space. The president is trying to politicize it. We need to keep it in a safe zone.”

July 30, 2020

Smashing through a wall with a sledgehammer can leave you with a satisfying feeling. After almost ten years of letters, memorandums, legal reviews, redesigns and multiple layers of approvals, it’s no wonder there were lots of smiles and woops of joy as key participants in the Fort Meade Education and Resiliency Center renovation project took their frustrations out on the walls of Kuhn Hall. The delays and multiple regulatory requirements are a reflection of the unique funding source for this top-to-bottom renovation which comes from a $3.6M gift from the Fort Meade Alliance and the Fort Meade Alliance Foundation…. The renovation project is funded entirely by a gift of $3.6M from the Fort Meade Alliance and the Fort Meade Alliance Foundation. The Alliance raised the money and secured support from key individuals to champion the project through the approval process until gaining final approval from the Secretary of the Army. Supporters included Maryland elected officials like Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, Congressman John Sarbanes, State Senator Pam Beidle, D-Linthicum, all of whom participated virtually in the wall breaking event. Earlier in the week, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman put on a hard hat and joined in the demolition.

July 30, 2020

Democrats complained that Dillingham is being “whipsawed” by the administration and that the views of the Census Bureau’s career experts are being ignored. But when asked his opinion, Dillingham begged off. “I understand that there were discussions [about a revised schedule], but I did not participate,” he told Representative John Sarbanes (D–MD). When Sarbanes pressed him to agree that returning to the 31 December deadline would force the bureau to move “too quickly” and result in a flawed count, Dillingham again demurred. “We certainly want a complete and accurate census,” he replied. But he ignored Sarbanes’s plea to tell legislators “how much time you need … for a robust result.” Census advocates worry the apparent about-face by the White House has left Dillingham in a precarious position. “By failing to stand by the bureau’s conclusion that it needs an additional 4 months to complete census operations well and then conduct high-quality data improvement, processing, and tabulation, they essentially are forcing the bureau to rush all of this work,” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former congressional aide who closely follows census issues.

July 25, 2020

Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has received $821,257 in federal funding, secured by Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Congressmen John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume. The funding was awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters – COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S) program, which provides funds for the purchase of PPE and related supplies for our nation’s first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic…. “Maryland’s first responders and firefighters are serving on the frontlines of our state’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “This new federal funding will help ensure that our firefighters have the equipment and resources they need – including PPE and other critical supplies – to stay safe and healthy while they continue protecting our communities during this crisis.”

July 22, 2020

Leaders of the companies working on some of the top candidates for COVID-19 vaccines predict they should have shots available by early 2021, but said they will rely on the federal government to determine how to distribute them. The heads of five biopharmaceutical companies with promising vaccine candidates told members of Congress Tuesday that they think they will be able to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year…. Trump has promised a vaccine by the end of the year,  raising concerns among some Democrats that his administration would rush to approve one. But company executives said there has been no political pressure to speed up a vaccine and compromise safety or efficacy. “The FDA is not loosening any standards,” said Gerberding. But Rep. John P. Sarbanes, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 3rd District, was skeptical. “There is a tension between safety and speed,” Sarbanes said. “Tell me why it is you are able to move so fast without sacrificing safety, when we lay that against what the normal procedures would be?” Company executives replied that their unusually fast timelines for vaccine development are a result of collaboration, extra funding for research, and prioritization from the FDA, including clear guidelines ahead of time on what will be needed for approval.