WASHINGTON – Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, but it makes a relatively poor showing when it comes to federal aid to help the state’s neediest people, according to a new study.
While Maryland state and local governments received a total of $4.4 billion in fiscal 2001 from the 50 largest federal formula grant programs, the federal spending from those programs per person lagged in the state.
Maryland received about $822 per capita from the 50 federal grant programs studied by the Northeast-Midwest Institute. That was about 20 percent less than the national average of $1,014 in aid per person, according to the institute’s report, which was released Thursday.
State officials and the report’s authors noted that many of the grant programs, like Medicaid, Head Start and children’s health insurance, are geared toward helping the poor. Because Maryland has a high per capita income and a relatively low rate of poverty, the state receives less from such programs.
“Maryland has the lowest poverty rate in the nation,” said Michelle Byrnie, a spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening. “Clearly the state is doing something right. We’re helping the people who need it most.”
But advocates for the poor said the lower federal grants don’t reflect the increasing needs of the population. Despite the state’s wealth, they said, poverty is growing during this time of recession.
“Maryland professes to have the lowest poverty rate in the nation,” said Alma Roberts, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Poverty Solutions. “But when you’re here in the trenches you see the increasing number of people who need services.”
The state must make up for the funds not provided by the federal government, Roberts said. But she worries that the state, faced with a potential budget shortfall as high as $1 billion in the next few years, might try to balance the budget through cuts to programs for the homeless and hungry.
But Byrnie insisted that the governor “will ensure that vital services to those in need are not impacted.”
Although Maryland is better off than those who qualify for more federal anti-poverty dollars, Roberts said, the state should take poverty seriously.
“If you have even 1 percent (poverty) you need to be working as rigorously as any other state to eliminate poverty,” she said.