Delegate Nicole A. Williams’ Newsletter – Beginning of Session!

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Dear Neighbors and Friends –

I hope that both you and your families have been enjoying the start to this new year. There is no doubt that 2020 was more challenging than we could have anticipated. And while 2021 may have shown us early on the lengths of the divide in this country, we still have so many reasons to keep the faith. This year, I am going to focus on the most pressing issues that we still face as a community and as a state. 

Of course, the current moment demands that we address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is promising news in the vaccines that will help end this crisis, as they are being distributed and administered across the state. Governor Hogan announced last week that emergency vaccination teams from the National Guard, as well as 700 volunteers, will be deployed to expedite the process. While we are still in Phase 1A of distribution, the Maryland Department of Health has reported that over 80,000 people have received their first dosages.

Governor Hogan this week also announced the RELIEF Act of 2021, a $1 billion legislative package that will provide financial assistance to Marylanders suffering from the effects of COVID-19. The package would give direct stimulus payments to low- and middle-income individuals, as well as support and tax relief for small businesses. The RELIEF Act of 2021 will be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly as session starts, with the hope of providing relief to the public as soon as possible. 

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks held a press conference last week about the distribution of the vaccine. Within the county, over 4,000 people have received their first dosage. Those eligible for vaccines during Phase 1A will be among our most vulnerable, including those health care workers who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic. County Executive Alsobrooks announced additional resources that will be available to the public, including an outline of the vaccine distribution plan and a vaccine data dashboard. You can find both of these linked later on in this newsletter. 

This year, the MGA session will look quite different, with most of our work being conducted online. I will be attending committee hearings and providing testimony in a virtual environment, and I am excited to be sponsoring a progressive slate of legislation, including bills on police reform, eviction reporting, and more. Be sure to check out the legislative update in this newsletter, as well as other community events and news. I am looking forward to getting to work on behalf of the residents of District 22!

– Nicole

Meet Your District 22 Team!

I am very appreciative and grateful for my staff, who will be working closely with me during this legislative session. Dejah, Morgan, and Michael each bring unique perspectives to the team, and are excited to get to work for District 22!

Dejah-Williams

Dejah Williams serves as Chief of Staff for my office, and has extensive experience working with Democratic officials in the policy field. Dejah studied at Texas A&M University for her undergraduate degree, and is currently completing her master’s in public policy at Northeastern University.

Morgan Mills

Morgan Mills is a senior political science student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. This is her second session with my office, and she is looking forward to working with the Maryland General Assembly again this year!

Michael Mareno

Michael Mareno is a junior political science and English major at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has past experience working in government affairs with non-profits, as well as with legal aid services. He is very excited to be working as a legislative intern this session!

Virtual District 22 Reception

Join Senator Pinsky, Delegate Healey, Delegate Washington, and myself for our annual District 22 reception honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18th, 2021 at 6:30 PM on Zoom. Grab and go meals will be available for pickup for those who register. If you have any questions, please call 301-858-3155. If you would like to register, please click here

Legislative Update

As Delegate, I remain committed to working broadly to improve our education system by allocating more funding to our schools; protect our environment by supporting measures for renewable energy; advocating for Marylanders to have paid sick leave, a living wage, and accessible health care; and fight for affordable housing in the DC Metro area, with a bill specifically to amend the eviction reporting process. 

Overriding Vetoes: I plan to vote in favor of overriding Governor Hogan’s vetoes on several key pieces of legislation from this past session. On education, Governor Hogan vetoed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future that would have set aside billions to implement education reforms, as well as legislation that would have given additional funds to our HBCUs in Maryland. On gun control, Governor Hogan vetoed a statute that would have required a background check for buyers in the sales of rifles and shotguns.

Criminal Justice Reform: This year, I also plan on supporting measures to reform our criminal justice system and law enforcement. I am in favor of the recommendations from the Police Reform and Accountability Workgroup, headed by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, which were made after working through the summer’s protests for Black Lives Matter. This includes the effort that will be made by House Speaker Adrienne Jones to repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. I will support making our local police departments more transparent by keeping a public record of officer misconduct cases. I will also be sponsoring House Bill 411, which will protect victims and witness who are in police custody from being forced by police officers to commit a sexual act, as well as charge those officers who are found guilty of committing this act. The hearing for this bill will be on January 18th, 2021 at 1:30 PM before the Judiciary Committee.

MAGLEV: I will be reintroducing House Bill 63 which was from last year’s session. This bill will prohibit the use of state funds for magnetic levitation transportation systems (MAGLEV). Any funds for such a project would be required to come from private entities and/or corporations.

Seeing-Eye Guide Dogs: This bill, House Bill 234 is based off of a 2012 bill introduced in New Jersey by State Senator Anthony R. Bucco, commonly referred to as “Dusty’s Law”. It will penalize those found guilty of killing, injuring, or interfering with a guide dog or other specialized trained service animal.

Stop Sign Cameras: This County bill will enable Prince George’s County and local jurisdictions within the County to implement a camera monitoring system in order to measure the height of vehicles. This will help with restricting the presence of large commercial vehicles during specific times in Prince George’s County in residential areas.

Scope of Licensure: The cost of hiring an architect, which can be at least $10,000, oftentimes ends up being more than the project itself. This House Bill 294 would increase the threshold from $5,000 to $25,000  for how much an individual can spend on alterations to a building before needing to hire an architect. The public hearing for this bill will be on Tuesday, January 19th, at 1:30 PM.

If you are interested in signing up to testify on a bill in the House this session, here are the new guidelines

While the session will look different this year as we work virtually amidst a pandemic, I am excited to get to work as I continue to represent District 22. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office anytime if I can be helpful regarding any matter facing the community.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Prince George’s County has created a helpful resource page regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. General information, as well as a timetable of vaccine distribution, can be found here.

Legislative Bond Initiatives (LBIs)

The Maryland General Assembly recently announced changes to the Legislative Bond Initiatives process for the 2021 session in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A major difference is that the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and the House Appropriations Committee will not be holding hearings for LBIs, and will instead be accepting fact sheets as testimony. For full guidelines, click here

West Hyattsville – Queens Chapel Sector Plan

The Prince George’s County Planning Department will be holding a Virtual Community Open House regarding the West Hyattsville – Queens Chapel Sector Plan today, January 13th, at 7:00 PM. To register, please click here
 

West Hyattsville - Queens Chapel Sector Plan

MAGLEV  Town Hall

Council Member Jolene Ivey of District 5 and Council Member Dannielle Glaros of District 3 will be holding a town hall on Thursday, January 14th at 7:00 PM to discuss what MAGLEV is and what impact it would have if it was brought to Prince George’s County. To register, please click here.

BGE Energizing Small Business Grants Program

Maryland-based small businesses have an opportunity to apply for grants of up to $20,000 to help with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligibility requirements include having between two and 25 employees, less than $7 million in annual revenue, an obvious need for the financial support, a plan on how funds would be used, and being in good standing with the state of Maryland. The first round of applications runs between January 20th and March 3rd, 2021. For more information, please click here

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS)

PGCPS will have its North County Virtual Community Conversation today, January 13th, at 6:30 PM to discuss the Prince George’s County Public Schools Comprehensive School Boundary Initiative. The objective of the Boundary Initiative is to provide an impartial analysis of current school boundaries, feeder patterns and program locations and to develop, with community input, scenarios for adjustments in order to populate new and expanded school facilities and balance facility utilization. Click here to register

PGCPS recently completed their survey that assessed community support for School Resource Officers (SROs), receiving over 13,000 responses. To view a full report of their findings, please click here

You can access the PGCPS online database that tracks building closures related to COVID-19. This database is updated frequently and provides timely and relevant information for your family. To access the databases, click here. For other information regarding reopening plans, click here.

PGCPS is also currently collecting responses on their strategic plan culture and climate survey. Results will help the system make a plan that will better serve our communities. To fill out the survey, please click here.

Maryland COVID-19 Contact Tracing App

The state of Maryland is using a COVID-19 contact tracing app to better and more quickly notify people if they have been exposed to the virus. For more information on the app, please click here.

WMATA and “TheBus”

On Monday, January 4, 2021, WMATA and the Prince George’s County’s “TheBus” resumed front-door bus boarding and fare collection. Protective barriers have been installed on all the vehicles. Both WAMTA and “TheBus” have undergone extensive safety and cleaning protocols. 

The standard one-way fare for “TheBus” will be reduced temporarily from $1.25 to $1.00. Seniors, persons with disabilities will continue to ride for free with government issued photo identification. Children two years old or under ride for free with an adult.

Energy Assistance

You can contact your utility company today to set up a payment plan or request energy assistance funds. Click here for more information on how to obtain help with your utilities.

Prince George’s County Free COVID-19 Testing Sites 

The Prince George’s County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 tests for people with or without symptoms. All you need is a form of identification to get tested at the following facilities:

First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville , 6201 Belcrest Road, Hyattsville MD 20782
(9 AM – 3 PM; Monday, Thursday, and Saturday)
CLOSED: December 31 and January 2

Prince George’s County Health Department Headquarters
*Begins December 14th, 2020*
1701 McCormick Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
(9 AM – 3:30 PM; Monday – Thursday)
CLOSED: January 1st – January 20th

D. Leonard Dyer Regional Health Center, 9314 Piscataway Road, Clinton, MD 20735
(9 AM – 3:30 PM; Monday – Friday)
CLOSED: January 1st – January 20th

Adventist Medical Group Primary Care, 10709 MD-210 Suite D, Fort Washington, MD 20744
(7:30 AM – 11:30 AM; Monday, Tuesday, and Friday)

Roseu Medical Center
*Appointment required, click here*
14402 Baltimore Avenue, Laurel, MD 20707
(8 AM – 12 PM; Monday – Friday)
CLOSED: January 1st – TBA

There are also test sites operated by the State such as the Six Flags Amusement Park location (which just announced extended hours) and private entities such as some CVS locations.

Click here to find a test site near you.

Distance Learning and Free Meals for Students 

There will be no meal distribution over winter break. Service will resume on Monday, Jan. 4. Families in need can receive meals during break through the County’s Stand Up & Deliver program and Maryland Capital Area Food Bank.   PGCPS continues to cover the cost of the Comcast Internet Essentials program, which provides affordable high-speed internet at home, for families eligible for free and reduced-price meals (FARMS). The school system will also help non-FARMS families obtain a Comcast or Verizon hotspot for home internet access. To request a hotspot, please call our Parent Center Hotline at 240-696-3315 or pgcps.family@pgcps.org.

Unemployment Insurance

If you or someone you know is continuing to have problems, please let my office know. Please use this Unemployment Insurance Tracker Form or contact my office directly for additional assistance.

To directly access the BEACON One-Stop site to file an unemployment claim, visit https://beacon.labor.maryland.gov/claimant/.

Food Distribution Sites and Resources

senior meals

Senior Meals, Call 301-265-8475.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several food pantries have been set up throughout the county and in neighboring jurisdictions. Enter your zip code or address to search for the food pantry nearest you.

SNAP Assistance
SNAP is approved in Maryland for online grocery purchases for delivery or pickup. Walmart, Amazon and ShopRight are among the participating retailers. Call Maryland Hunger Solutions at 866-821-5552 for assistance and questions related to SNAP applications. They can assist with completing and submitting SNAP applications over the phone, submit any changes to your active SNAP case, answer questions about your benefits, and direct you to additional food resources.

Food 4 Families and Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County are partnering to offer a Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway.

County COVID-19 Resources

The COVID-19 Hotline
If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Prince George’s County Health Department Coronavirus hotline at (301) 883-6627 from 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM to receive updated information about the coronavirus disease. Please contact 911 for medical emergencies only.

24/7 COVID-19 Prevention Hotline
The Maryland State Police have expanded their 24/7 COVID-19 Prevention Hotline. Community members are encouraged to report public health violations through the email linked above, or by calling (833) 979-2266.

Nonprofit Resources
Listing of resources and grants specifically for nonprofit organizations in the County.

Childcare for Essential Employees and Employees Returning to Work 
Child care centers are opening up throughout the State. Click here if you are returning back to work and need child care.

To keep track of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the county please click here.