The creation of Health Equity Resource Communities is the the top legislative priority of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative. The measure would boost healthcare in under-served communities.
Under the measure, Senate Bill 172 and a companion House proposal, a one-cent increase in the state’s alcohol tax would be established. The generated funds would facilitate grants for programs to provide health coverage, substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. Local community groups, non-profit hospitals, universities and local governments would be eligible to receive the funds.
More than 250 other organizations support this much needed measure in Maryland which would help close race- and income-based gaps in health care access. These gaps have been made worse due to the pandemic making the initiative ever more important in the present context.
COVID-19 has revealed deep-seated inequities in health for our communities of color and amplifies the social and economic factors that contribute to poor outcomes,” said Kevin W. Sowers, President of the Johns Hopkins Health System, as per, WTOP News.Kevin W. Sowers, President, Johns Hopkins Health System
Nevertheless, Big Alcohol is pushing back against this much needed initiative. Representatives of the state’s liquor distribution and hospitality industry cited the impact the pandemic has had on the industry, specifically bars and restaurants, as reasons why taxes should not be increased.
However, these claims are unfounded since the proposed alcohol tax would not apply to bars and restaurants until 2023, taking the pandemic effect into consideration. The tax would be applied only to purchases from retail stores until 2023.
House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke’s (R-Anne Arundel) statements on the matter suggest he is under the influence of the alcohol industry.
This is a terrible time to raise any kind of tax in our state. To specifically target an industry brought to its knees by the impacts of COVID-19 is cruel,” said Nicholaus R. Kipke, House Minorty Leader, Maryland, as per WTOP News.Nicholaus R. Kipke, House Minorty Leader, Maryland
The one-cent alcohol tac increase means the following: Maryland has a sales tax surcharge on alcohol. This would raise from 9% to 10%.
According to Vincent DeMarco, head of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, SB 172 would raise $14 million in each of the program’s first two years and $22 million per year after it is fully phased in.
It is necessary that Maryland prioritize public health over private profit to overcome health inequality and recover better from the pandemic.