Advocacy in Annapolis: An Update on the 2016 Legislative Session

August 31st, 2016

Paul’s Place, like many nonprofits, serves a population that is typically more significantly impacted by policy decisions than the general public, but far less involved in advocating around those same issues. In our 34 years of programming, Paul’s Place has gained expertise in service delivery and trust from our guests and community partners.

In the 2016 legislative session, Paul’s Place joined forces with other advocates to give our guests a voice and lend our expertise and human resources to support three bills in the Maryland General Assembly. We are excited to share the results of our leadership and advocacy efforts:

1. Increasing the Minimum Food Stamp Program (House Bill 445 and Senate Bill 758): We were thrilled to provide written testimony to both the House and Senate, where this bill received bipartisan support. Paul’s Place Ambassador Ronald Bailey testified at the Senate Finance Committee Hearing, and his testimony moved the delegates to lower the age restriction of the bill from 65 years old to 62 years old. The increase of $16 to $30 a month in food stamps will take effect October 2016, giving an additional supplement to our senior citizens receiving less than $30 a month in food stamps.

2. Opioid-Associated Disease Prevention and Outreach Programs also known as Syringe Services Programs (House Bill 468 and Senate Bill 097): Paul’s Place supported and monitored this bill closely, as it directly affects access to needle exchanges in the Baltimore area. In recent years, Maryland has seen a steady increase in HIV transmission rate, and access to needle exchanges have proven to reduce the rate of infectious diseases, like HIV and Hepatitis C. The bill succeeded, and the expansion of this program will save thousands lives and, more importantly, engage individuals with recovery resources and access to treatment.

3. Fairness and Integrity for Baltimore City Renters Act (House Bill 796 and Senate Bill 801): Paul’s Place has a long history in providing financial assistance to our community members facing housing-related and other crises. In the past year, we have partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services to provide financial assistance to our guests who are at risk for homelessness due to a pending eviction. Although this bill was withdrawn from the 2016 session it has been referred to a “summer study.” We intend to follow this bill through the next legislative session to help find more solutions to reduce the number of evictions in Baltimore City.

Our experience in Annapolis this past year was remarkable. Our guests had the opportunity to share their stories and raise their voice to truly activate change that will affect thousands of Marylanders.

To gear up for the 2017 Maryland General Assembly, Paul’s Place has begun meeting with partner organizations and coalitions focused on serving our most vulnerable guests. We intend to advocate for expanding the increase of the food stamp benefit and increasing accessibility of drug treatment. We are also exploring opportunities for our staff, volunteers, and guests to become more involved in the legislative session and will continue to encourage voter registration.

Stay tuned for our call to action as we continue to be a catalyst for change in our community.