As I write to you with my reflections on our work this month, I can’t help but think of the immense joy and relief I feel now that our students have returned in-person to their schools. This September’s opening of our public schools marks their first in-person school meetings in the year and a half since their closure in March 2020. Despite the many remaining challenges regarding the COVID-19 virus, this occasion marks a positive measure. The conditions for in-person learning, like many things, are far from ideal, but this moment presents cause for hope and I was proud to continue our annual tradition of sharing backpacks with students throughout the district.
Everyday our students are coming to school hopeful to learn and grow. Everyday our students are coming to school greeted by dedicated and conscientious educators. The investment we made in our young people as a part of the 21st Century Schools Program Plan is yielding an exponential return as so many of our students return to new and improved school buildings.
In my July 2021 Afro Op-Ed, Investing in Our Most Valuable Resource: Our Children, I noted: “While there are those who will always focus on the down and out in Baltimore – always talking about what our City cannot be versus what our city could be, I am writing to remind you that we are the only jurisdiction in Maryland on course to build two-dozen brand new schools. Like any urban city that has seen its fair share of underinvestment, Baltimore has challenges. However, it is importance to remember our resilience and potential in succeeding. It lies in our most valuable resource: our children. We have to invest in a brighter future for them.” While we have lingering cause for concern in regard to the pandemic, the start of in-person learning at our schools, particularly our new and renovated school buildings, reminds us of how far we come since the start of the pandemic and gives us hope for the future. I’m proud to advocate for our schools and visit and support our young people as scheduling allows. I recently visited with students at the Baltimore Design School and Mervo as a part of my commitment–I look forward to many other visits to make-up for the time we missed!
Finally, on a personal note, my family recently sat at the Rawlings Conservatory for our annual photo. I am so very blessed by my wife Demitria and four children. Our kids are growing and enjoying the start of school. It is an honor to work for you and I look forward to our progress!
Brief Updates & Reminders:
I am working to connect with you and our neighbors at our doors and community association meetings to keep in touch and hear your feedback and concerns. In the meantime, please call me at 410-841-3165 or email me with any matters or issues that need attention or present a concern. Our staff is ready to assist you!
As you can imagine, much of my work is still driven by our response to the public health and safety needs created by the COVID-19 virus and the continue effects on our community and economy. Our office is closely tracking the delays that prevented many from receiving their Unemployment Insurance and we are acting and advocating to the MD Department of Labor on these matters. If you, or someone you know, needs help receiving your Unemployment Insurance, please contact our office as soon as possible!
Our legislative staff is actively preparing for January’s 2022 legislative session. I’m researching a few issues that affect Baltimore City as whole for my role as the chair of our local senate delegation. My committee, the Budget & Taxation committee, has been conducting interim briefings and I am studying past capital budget activity for my new role as vice-chair of the Capital Budget Subcommittee.
Last week, I attended the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ annual reception and was recognized as their Legislator of the Year in acknowledgment of our role as lead Senate sponsor of the Transit Safety and Investment Act. LCV Executive Director Kim Coble noted that “the Transportation Safety and Investment Act was inarguably the most significant environmental win of the 2021 legislative session..Senator McCray’s skillful and passionate floor leadership brought the bill across the finish line with strong, bipartisan majority support.”
I have previously mentioned that our state’s investment in public transportation is crucial to its economic growth and long-term success, therefore the Transportation Safety and Investment Act remains one of my highest priorities because it codifies a modern investment in our transit systems. Business and environmental leaders agree—our state’s prudent and proactive investment in transit acts to grow our economy, jobs, and wages. I’ll continue advocating for this legislation and other serious bipartisan actions to address the crucial needs of our community. As a part of this work, I recently spoke with Ralph E. Moore, Jr. of the Afro Newspaper about the Transportation Safety and Investment Act and our other work last session. It was a deep honor to listen and learn from such an esteemed community leader and discuss our work in the General Assembly.
Reminder: COVID Vaccination Information
If you or a loved one is looking for an appointment, vaccination interest form for older adults is available at the Baltimore City Health Department’s website at coronavirus.baltimorecity.gov/covax. Those older adults without access to the internet can also call the Maryland Access Point hotline at 410-396-2273.
Local area hospitals and medical providers listed on coronavirus.maryland.gov, under Find a Vaccine, have created interest forms for vaccinations when they become available, and residents in eligible Priority Groups are encouraged to visit those websites and sign up. Baltimore-area retailers and pharmacists such as Giant, Safeway, and Rite Aid locations have appointments too.
Apply for the Homeowners Property Tax Credit!
The State of Maryland has developed a program which allows credits against the homeowner’s property tax bill if the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of the person’s gross income. In other words, it sets a limit on the amount of property taxes any homeowner must pay based upon his or her income. I was proud to co-sponsor the law and “I’m glad that the legislature decided that it is our intent to make sure that folks are made whole.”
The tax credit is based upon the amount by which the property taxes exceed a percentage of your income according to the following formula: 0% of the first $8,000 of the combined household income; 4% of the next $4,000 of income; 6.5% of the next $4,000 of income; and 9% of all income above $16,000. As noted by the Baltimore Sun, “the property tax applies to city homeowners who have a household income of less than $60,000 per year. The credit is applied against the home’s property tax bill, with the goal of keeping taxes affordable so people don’t lose their homes. Homeowners have to apply each year, and the deadline is looming on Oct. 1.”
Applications for the Tax Credit are available at Baltimore Community Action Partnership Centers and branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition created a website (marylandtaxcredit.com) and hotline (443-961-6220) to help people through the application process.
The state Department of Assessments and Taxation also has an online application system.
Congratulations to our Annual Scholarship Recipients!
Investing in our most valuable resource, our children, remains a priority for me. For the 2021 – 2022 Academic Year, our office proudly awarded over $116,000 to over 40 students working towards higher education or career goals. I know by investing in the next generation, we are investing in Baltimore, ensuring that our communities are built brick-by-brick. I am proud of each scholarship recipient, and know that the awardees have a bright future ahead of them.
Please join me in celebrating our scholars and in wishing them a successful academic year!
One Last Thing…
As we move closer to 2022, can you consider making a contribution of $5, $10, 0r $25 to our campaign? It’s crucial that we have the resources to keep our work and momentum going.
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Cory V. McCray
Senator, 45th Legislative District