Courtney Watson
House of Delegates
District 9B

Greetings Friends,

Several pieces of my sponsored legislation have started to move through their respective House committees. I am testifying on six bills this week (whew!), and despite the projected snow and ice, we are gathering in the House through Friday.

We began meeting on the House Floor in person on February 8th. This year the public has access to not just floor actions but also to committee and delegation meetings. If you'd like to follow along, consult the MGA Website, check out the schedules and log on to the YouTube channel (see the icon in the top right corner of the website).

I miss seeing constituents and advocacy groups in person, but I'm pleased to be able to spend time each week meeting virtually. On March 1, Senator Katie Fry Hester and I will be holding another virtual Town Hall Meeting at 7 pm - hope you can attend! See the registration link below.

As always, feel free to reach out if you have a question or concern. My contact information is listed at the bottom of this newsletter.

Stay well and stay warm,
Included in this issue:

  • Constituent Town Hall Save-the-Date and Registration Link
  • Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan Update
  • Major Legislative News
  • This Weeks' Bill Hearings
  • Burleigh Manor Middle School Bill Progress
  • Modified Gathering Restrictions
  • HoCo Asian American and Pacific Islander Workgroup
  • Howard County Business Recovery Grants
  • Tracing Black History in Howard County
  • Tax Prep Assistance
  • Vaccine Update from Howard County Health Department, and more...
February is National Healthy Heart Month
Registration Link:

Ellicott City City Safe and Sound Plan Update from County Executive Calvin Ball
Click on the photo for a comprehensive update of the progress made in Ellicott City in the past two years. County Executive Ball shares the specifics and I think you will be impressed. I am thrilled that Senator Katie Hester and I have been able to bring $12.3 million home to Ellicott City from the state for the Safe and Sound Plan of flood mitigation....and we are not finished yet.
Major Legislation News
On February 8, the House of Delegates completed its override of the Governor's veto of the Blueprint for Maryland's Future. This bill will improve public education for this generation of students and help provide equity for all children. It will also do more to attract qualified teachers and reward them for their efforts. Finally, the bill will help ensure that we have a prepared workforce leaving our schools to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Prescription Drug Affordability Board
With a 95-38 vote, the Board is now guaranteed a permanent funding source to ensure it can perform its important work.  We are the first state to create this kind of board, but interest is soaring nationally, and advocates and legislators in over a dozen states have reached out seeking our help in developing something similar.” 
Relief Act Passes with Bipartisan Support -
COVID Relief for Marylanders Begins Now!

This week, the House of Delegates took a historic step with the bipartisan passage of the Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families (RELIEF) Act, which provides over $1.5 billion in pandemic relief. The RELIEF Act will infuse the State’s economy with $509.0 million in spending and provide over $1.0 billion in tax relief and credits

  • Maryland becomes the highest state in the nation for its earned income tax credit, which puts cash in the pockets of low income Maryland taxpayers. Specifically, the credit is raised to 45% of the federal credit amount – which will, on average, provide families with children up to $730 more for a total of nearly $1,700.
  • Maryland also raises its earned income tax credit for individuals with no children from nearly $100 to $530.
  • Unemployment insurance payments will be exempt from the State income tax, keeping over $225.0 million in the pockets of unemployed Marylanders.
  • Marylanders who qualified for the earned income tax credit in 2019 will be provided with stimulus payments of up to $500, putting over $175.0 million immediately in the hands low–income individuals and families.
  • Allows small businesses to keep sales tax collections of up to $9,000 over three months
  • Helps up to 100,000 small businesses & nonprofits to defer paying unemployment insurance taxes until the first three months of 2022 to help cash flow (they employ ¼ of MD workforce)

Layoffs will not impact an employer’s experience rating for FY20 and FY21

MD will take a low interest loan from the federal government to replace payments to the UI Trust Fund

  • Forgives MD taxes on COVID loans and grants

  • Minority and Small Business Loans (MSBDFA): Converts up to $50,000 in Equity Participation Program loans to grants
To help spread the word and offer additional information to as many people as possible, the Maryland Comptroller's Office has created a ‘Maryland RELIEF’ page on their website, This ‘RELIEF’ page features a portal where taxpayers can check if they are eligible for direct payments, watch a video from Comptroller Franchot that explains the agency’s process, and learn how to contact the agency for additional assistance. 

RELIEF questions - 1-833-345-0787 or email
Two of the Bills that I'm Testifying on This Week
Alcoholic Beverages - Sale or Delivery for Off-Premises Consumption
Altering the scope of a certain provision prohibiting the retail delivery to a purchaser of alcoholic beverages under certain circumstances; authorizing holders of certain licenses that authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages at a restaurant, bar, or tavern to sell certain alcoholic beverages in sealed containers for off-premises consumption or delivery under certain circumstances; and prohibiting a local licensing board from charging a certain license holder an additional fee under certain circumstances.
Hearing 2/19 at 11:00 a.m. / Economic Matters Committee

Emergency Management - Chief Resilience Officer - Appointment and Duties
Requiring the Director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to appoint a Chief Resilience Officer to be responsible for coordinating State and local efforts to build resilience to risks identified in the Maryland Hazard Mitigation Plan; providing that the Chief Resilience Officer serves at the pleasure of the Director; establishing the duties of the Chief Resilience Officer, including identifying funding streams and technical assistance and working with leaders of vulnerable industries; requiring a certain annual report; etc.
Hearing 2/17 at 1:30 p.m. / Health and Government Operations
HB-77 Environment - Driveway Sealers - Prohibitions (Safer Sealant Act of 2021)

SPONSOR: Delegate Vaughn Stewart

GUIDED BY: Burleigh Manor Middle School Students

Passed in the Maryland House of Delegates February 16, 2021 (93-36)
Howard County Executive Eases Capacity Restrictions for Weddings, Recreational Sports, and Social Organizations Friday, Feb. 19th at 5pm
The decision to relax restrictions on events follows significant decreases in Howard County’s positivity rate and case rate per 100,000 residents, currently at 3.8% and 13.2 cases, respectively. This week Howard County’s 7-day average positivity rate fell below 4% for the first time since November 8th. 
The new Executive Order allows: 

  • Wedding receptions and social and fraternal organizations to host up to 50 percent capacity; 
  • Indoor recreational sports and programs to host 50 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is less; and 
  • Outdoor recreational sports and programs to host 50 percent capacity or 250 people, whichever is less. 

These types of gatherings had been limited to a 10-person maximum indoors and 25-person maximum outdoors since late November to account for increasing COVID case and positivity rates in Howard County. The gathering limit is still in effect for the following: family gatherings, parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, or other gatherings not associated with operating or patronizing a business that sells merchandise.
Howard County Executive Launches Asian-American and Pacific Islander Workgroup 
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the launch of an Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Workgroup through Executive Order. The workgroup will provide an outlet to organize events and discussions to foster stronger relationships, advise the County on best practices to further support the AAPI community and policy initiatives, and work on emerging issues affecting the AAPI community. Video of the event can be found here.   
Howard County is home to nearly 60,000 residents who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander. The AAPI Workgroup will be chaired by Maryland State Senator Clarence Lam, and have 18 members from the community. The workgroup will also host quarterly meetings that are open to the public and submit biannual reports to the County Executive on current and emerging issues impacting the Asian-American community.  
Howard County Announces Additional $5 Million in HoCo RISE Business Grants 
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the third round of HoCo RISE Business Grants of $5.1 million for small local businesses, restaurants, and hotels. The funding includes $2 million in County funds for businesses, $1.5 million from the State for restaurants, and $1.6 million from the State for hotels. For information, click here.
The Ellicott City Partnership Announces
the OEC Main Street Recovery Grant
In anticipation of receiving funding for the Main Street community, The Ellicott City Partnership announces the OEC Main Street Recovery Grant. This grant is intended to assist with operating expenses that have taken place from January 1st to June 15th, 2021. The grant is now open. Apply through February 24th. If you have any questions email them to
St. John's Offers Social Justice Lenten Series:
Racial Reconciliation...Time for Healing
Celebrate Black History Month with
Visit Howard County, Maryland
As we celebrate Black History Month, here are just a few places in or near Howard County that serve as either landmarks or showplaces for that history (Classroom from the restored Ellicott City Colored School, above).
Free Tax Assistance Preparation Options from
the Maryland Office of People's Counsel
Tax filing season begins 2/12/2021 and must be filed by 4/15/2021. There are free tax preparation and filing options available to low and moderate income households. Here is a list of a few of those options.
Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between in-person and remote tax assistance depending on site availability.
Eligibility: Anyone with low to moderate income, with a special focus on taxpayers who are 50 or older may qualify.
Contact: Call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669) or go online to the AARP Foundation Tax Locator.
Offers free state and federal tax preparation services.
Eligibility: Individuals/families who made less than $57,000 in 2020, specifically Spanish speakers. May also be able to assist persons who speak other languages, call for information. Must have an appointment.
Contact: Call 410-732-7777 to schedule an appointment.   
Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between virtual appointments or drop-off tax preparation.
Eligibility: If you live in the Baltimore area and made $57,000 or less in 2020 you may qualify for free tax preparation. You must have an appointment to receive services.
Contact: Call 410-234-8008 Mon-Fri, 9AM-3PM.
Offers free state and federal tax preparation services. Customers can choose between virtual appointments or drop-off tax preparation depending on site availability.
Eligibility: If you made $57,000 or less in 2020 you may qualify for free tax preparation services.
Contact: Call 1-800-492-0618 or check out the list of tax partners offering free tax preparation services. See the attachment for a full list of sites.
Offers free state and federal tax preparation services.
Eligibility: The filer made less than $57,000 in 2020.
Contact: Call 1-800-906-9887 and ask to find a location or go online to the IRS VITA locator.
Offers free federal (sometimes state) tax preparation services. Online services only or independent filing.
Eligibility: The filer must have made under $72,000 in 2020 to qualify for free online filing services. If the person made over $72,000 they offer free fillable tax forms for the filer to complete independently.
Contact: Go online to choose an online free filing service
Offers free state tax preparation services. Virtual appointments available.
Contact: For general information and free Maryland income tax assistance call Taxpayer Services at 410-260-7980 from Central Maryland, or 1-800-MD-TAXES (1-800-638-2937). Assistance is available Mon-Fri, 8:30AM-4:30PM. You can also schedule an appointment online.
What if I can’t pay my taxes?
If you cannot pay the full amount of taxes you owe, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. You also should contact the IRS to discuss your payment options at 800-829-1040. For more information, see The Collection Process and Tax Payment Options.
Learn Something New - Virtually - at Howard Community College
Howard Community College will host a series of virtual lectures showcasing social sciences faculty on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. during the months of February and March. Faculty will speak on their areas of expertise, covering such timely topics as American politics, sex and gender, culture, the Fourth Amendment, and de-escalation techniques in policing. Each lecture includes time for questions from participants.
Free and open to the public, participants are asked to RSVP at or by emailing
More Student Advocacy from Students at Jemicy School
I recently received several handwritten, persuasive letters from Jemicy School students in support of HB-237, State Department of Education - Early Literacy and Dyslexia Practices - Guidance and Assistance. This bill seeks to provide an advisory group to develop a reading and dyslexia handbook to guide local school systems in the implementation of best practices for early literacy and dyslexia, then requires that the handbook be made available to the public. I pledged my support and am happy to report that it passed the House of Delegates unanimously. On to the Senate!
From the Howard County Chamber
About this Event
EMPLOYERS - Register for the Howard County Virtual Job Fair!
We are looking to connect employers ready to hire
with job seekers who want to work.
The Howard County Virtual Job Fair is being presented by the following agencies:
·   Howard County (MD) Chamber of Commerce
·   Howard County (MD) Office of Workforce Development
·   Hosted by Dr. Dave Leadership Corporation.

Job seekers can upload their resumes so contact us to get access to the shared folder so you can review them beforehand!

There are two sessions on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021.
Session #1 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Session #2 - 2:30pm to 4:00pm
UMBC Presents
Three Pandemics, Three Conversations

Wednesday, March 3 • 5 - 6:30 p.m.
A Virtual Community Event

With grand challenges facing Maryland and the nation, UMBC alumni, faculty, and staff are stepping up to lead scientific, social, and policy responses that can give all of us hope for the future. Join us for a timely conversation with Retrievers who will discuss their efforts and what this moment requires of each of us as we work together to rebuild trust in science, fix structural health and social inequities, and reform the criminal justice system.
Hosted By:

  • The Honorable Adrienne A. Jones ’76, Speaker, Maryland House of Delegates
  • UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski
  • The UMBC Annapolis Alumni Network and Brian Frazee ’11, M.P.P. ’12, President of the UMBC Alumni Association and Vice President for Government Relations, Maryland Hospital Association

Cold Weather Assistance
Cold Weather Shelter: During the cold winter months many counties open up extra shelter space based on temperatures. For up-to-date information about sheltering and warming locations in your area you can call 211MD by dialing 2-1-1 or 800-492-0618.  

Fuel Fund: For those who need help with their energy bills and have already used Office of Home Energy Program (OHEP) or are over income for OHEP, Fuel Fund may be another option. The Fuel Fund of Maryland assists income eligible BGE customers with paying their utility bills after they complete OHEP (the person has received receipt of grants or has been denied for over income). They have recently instituted some new rules that impact process and eligibility to effectively respond to the pandemic.
1.      Waived the need for a turn off notice through 6/30/2021.
2.      Waived the need for seniors (age 60+) to complete OHEP before getting assistance from the Fuel Fund of Maryland through 6/30/2021.
They will mail the consumer an OHEP application as needed.
Share Your Life Stories Presentations and Workshops
The Maryland Department of Aging, in partnership with Story Tapestries (a local non-profit), is pleased to announce the launch of Share Your Life Stories, an initiative designed to address the issue of social isolation many older adults are experiencing as a result of COVID-19.  Share Your Life Stories is designed to give older adults throughout the state a chance to engage and connect with others in a safe and creative environment.

Share Your Life Stories is a series of virtual presentations and workshops where participants listen, learn the art of storytelling, and share their life stories. For those without smart phones and computers, there is telephone access to all events. There are two types of events 1) Storytelling Broadcast and 2) Story Circles. The “Storytelling Broadcasts” offer participants a chance to log on or dial in to hear award winning storytellers. The "Story Circles" events are interactive and give participants a chance to log in or dial in and be a part of small groups to learn the art of storytelling, and share their stories. All events are free of charge for Marylanders 60 and older. Registration is required and available on a first come basis.


COVID-19 Vaccine:
The Health Department will receive 1,700 doses each week for the next four weeks. This allocation, which is less than our January average of about 3,000 per week, and our high of 4,500 in a week, represents the State’s continued transition from local health departments vaccinating their communities to regional State-run mass vax clinics, retail pharmacies, and hospital operating clinics. Everyone eligible for vaccine in Phase 1A, 1B, or 1C is encouraged to monitor the State Vaccine Website for other area clinics where vaccine may be more immediately available:

The Howard County Health Department also has opened vaccine interest surveys on our COVID-19 Vaccination page for all populations who want to receive vaccine.

If you fall into any of these groups and have not yet completed a vaccine interest survey, please take a look below and complete the one for the group into which you (or a family member) fall.

  • Howard County Residents age 75 and older interested in receiving the vaccine: Click here to fill out our survey.
  • Howard County Residents ages 65-74 interested in receiving the vaccine: Click here to fill out our survey.  
  • Howard County licensed childcare workers & non-public school educators and those in higher education interested in receiving the vaccine: Click here to fill out our survey.
  • Howard County healthcare providers who still have not received vaccine but wish to do so should Click here to complete our survey.
  • Howard County adults with developmental disabilities (The intent of this group is to vaccinate persons with significant disabilities requiring support to live outside a congregant facility.) interested in receiving vaccine can complete our survey here
  • All others in Phase 1C who are interested in receiving the vaccine: Click here to complete our survey.
  • Those individuals in Phase 2 and Phase 3 also have pre-registration questionnaires available so that the Health Department will have your information once we are able to move into these Phases.
  • Phase 2 Survey - Click HERE
  • Phase 3 Survey - Click HERE
**Note: You WILL NOT receive an appointment after completing the survey. You will be emailed in the future with information about clinics as they become available based on vaccine availability** Please be patient, as we continue to have challenges with lack of vaccine.

Have a vaccine appointment with the Health Department and worried about the weather? If a vaccine clinic must be rescheduled due to weather, you will receive an email notification to the account used to make your appointment. This email will include information about when your appointment will be rescheduled. All appointments will be rescheduled in a timely manner.

The Howard County Health Department receives its vaccine prioritization guidance from the Maryland Department of Health. Information about the State phased vaccine distribution plan is available here:
Visit the Maryland General Assembly - Virtually
The Visitors Program in the Library and Information Services Division of DLS can offer groups “live” guided Virtual Visits of the Maryland General Assembly legislative complex on weekdays by advance reservation.

The updated webpage provides more information, including an easy, online Virtual Visit Request Form that Teachers and other Group Leaders can submit to start the reservation process:

All in-person group tours remain suspended indefinitely at the Maryland General Assembly legislative complex.  
2021-2022 House of Delegates District 9B Scholarship Application NOW AVAILABLE!
This year, the scholarship application is online! Full details at the link below. Applications are due by March 31, 2021.

Your thoughts are always welcome. Please contact me by email (see the link at the top of the page). When requesting help for constituent matters, please include "constituent" in the subject line.
Delegate Courtney Watson
Howard County District 9B
Member, Economic Matters Committee
Vice Chair, Democratic Caucus

Maryland House of Delegates
6 Bladen Street, Room 350
Annapolis, MD 21401
410-841-3077 / 301-858-3077