Sen. Cardin makes Federalsburg visits
— U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., made several stops in Federalsburg throughout the morning and early afternoon Monday, June 5, to talk to Caroline County residents and hear their concerns regarding a wide range of issues.
Among those discussed were education,
immigration, health care access, business development and the opioid addiction epidemic.
As Maryland’s senior U.S. senator following the retirement of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Cardin said, it is his responsibility to unite the state’s federal delegation.
The tours in Federalsburg and across the state are a chance for Cardin to hear directly from constituents what they need their legislators to address, he said.
Federalsburg Judy Center
Cardin’s first stop was the Federalsburg Judy Center. Director Tearesa French described the center’s many programs for children, adults and families, including Head Start and Early Head Start school readiness for children from birth to 5, and GED and English as a Second Language classes for adults.
French said the center’s biggest challenges are finding qualified bilingual early childhood education staff; worrying about a loss of federal funding that will stiffen the competition for the state grants the Judy Center relies on to operate; and finding the staff and facility space to meet updated federal operating guidelines for early childhood education.
Cardin visited a classroom of adult immigrants from Haiti studying for the U.S. citizenship test.
Immigrants are welcome in the U.S., Cardin said, not just because it is the humanitarian thing to do for people who cannot live in a country like Haiti, ravaged by a series of natural disasters, but because immigrants have always been key to the American economy.
“America has always grown its industry because of immigrants coming here to work,” Cardin said, adding that many business leaders support immigration.
Programs like those offered at the Judy Center are extremely important, Cardin said, and he promised to work to ensure continued federal funding.
Fair and predictable immigration policy is also important, Cardin said, so immigrants can plan their lives.
Cardin said he does not agree with President Donald Trump’s ideas for travel bans and a wall along the Mexican border, but Trump is the president and Congress must work with him.
“The cards have been dealt, and we need to figure out a common way forward,” Cardin said.
Cr ystal Steel Fabricators
Cardin’s next stop was Crystal Steel Fabricators in the Frank M. Adams Industrial Park. The Delmar, Del.-based company, which already had additional facilities in Memphis, Philadelphia and the Philippines, bought its newest property in Federalsburg last fall, and began operations in January. It currently employs about 60 people, and expects to double that number as it adds another shift to increase production, management said.
Cardin took a tour of the production floor before meeting with several local business owners, elected officials and representatives of the Caroline County Board of Education.
“This is a great county, with a great way of life, but it has its challenges,” Cardin said. “Its location can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.”
Cardin said the county’s push to grow its economy by encouraging manufacturing businesses is a model for other rural areas.
“You need to bring the right type of jobs to a rural area,” Cardin said. “You need an economy that can preserve your way of life.”
Dr. Clay Railey, vice president for academic affairs at Chesapeake College, said federal Pell Grants should be available for students pursuing education for skills trades, not just for those on track for a traditional fouryear degree.
For example, Railey said, the college’s 10-week truckdriving program can lead to a career that produces $50,000 to $60,000 in annual income, but the $4,000 fee for training is too much for many people.
Emad Mohamed, executive vice president of Crystal Steel, said high-speed internet access is still an issue in rural areas like Federalsburg.
Cardin also heard about concerns ranging from health care costs to the corporate tax rate.
“We need better policies so companies can spend more money (in the U.S.),” Cardin said.
Federalsburg Elementary School
The third stop on Cardin’s tour was the Choptank Community Health Wellness Center at Federalsburg Elementary School.
Run through a partnership between Caroline County Public Schools and Choptank Community Health System, the wellness centers are located in every public school in Caroline County, as well as in a few in Talbot County.
The centers provide onsite medical and dental care for students and teachers alike, said Choptank Community Health CEO Sara Rich, and their licensed providers can refer patients to specialists when further care is needed.
Cardin was impressed by the wellness center, especially its oral care program, implemented in 2001, years before it became more common in schools.
“You’re really pioneers here,” Cardin said. “This is a great county commitment to health in schools.”
Proposed Medicaid cuts in Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget were a top concern.
Rich said 41 percent of Choptank Community Health’s patients receive Medicaid, while 17 percent of its patients are uninsured. The proposed cuts would drive up the number of uninsured patients, negatively impacting both the patients and the centers, Rich said.
Susan Johnson, vice president of quality and population health for Choptank Community Health, said while community health centers see about 6 percent of the population statewide in Maryland, that fraction grows to 25 percent in rural areas, and in Caroline County specifically, to 40 percent.
Kat Stork, deputy director of the Caroline County Department of Recreation and Parks, was also concerned about Trump’s FY18 budget, which would zero out the federal 21st Century Learning Center grants that fund the afterschool and summer learning programs, run by the department in partnership with the Board of Education.
“It would be devastating to Caroline County to lose those grants,” Stork said.
Cardin said both Medicaid and the 21st Century Learning Center grants were fully funded by Congress in the recently-passed Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and he expects bipartisan support for both in the FY18 budget.
“I’m confident (Trump’s proposed) budget won’t pass,” Cardin said. “I will do everything to support your (funding) sources so you can continue to provide services, and even expand.”
Christ United Methodist Church
The final stop on Cardin’s tour was Christ United Methodist Church, where Cardin had lunch and met with municipal and county elected officials, as well as local law enforcement.
Caroline County Commission President Dan Franklin said it is important for Congress to protect Community Development Block Grant funding.
Such a grant greatly contributed to the funding source for a much-needed new wastewater treatment plant being built in Preston, Franklin said, driving down the amount the town will have to finance and pay back.
Cardin said he would have a problem with a federal budget that cuts all CDBG funding, but it was also fully funded in the FY17 budget, which he expects it to be in FY18.
Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell said the county’s Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council just completed an eight-date showing of a documentary on opioid abuse throughout the county, in the hopes of preventing people from trying opioids and becoming addicted.
Holly Ireland, executive director of Mid Shore Behavioral Health, said cuts to programs addressing the opioid addiction epidemic in Trump’s proposed FY18 budget are alarming.
Cardin said he also thought those programs would remain funded in FY18, as they were in FY17.
“I think Congress might even put more money in (to those programs),” Cardin said.
Ireland said with all the focus on opioid addiction, she encourages lawmakers to not lose sight of other aspects of behavioral health that also need attention, such as the climbing rates of suicide, anxiety and depression, especially among youth.
Cardin wrapped up the final meeting of the day by thanking everyone for their input.
“This has been a very helpful morning to me,” Cardin said. “Let us know, as specific issues unfold, how we can help.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. visits with children at the Federalsburg Judy Center Monday, June 5.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. meets with Caroline County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens and local officials at Federalsburg Elementary Monday, June 5.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. meets with local residents at the Federalsbrg Judy Center to discuss immigration Monday, June 5.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood and Caroline Economic Development Coordinator Rachel Barry receive a tour at Crystal Steel in Federalsburg, Monday, June 5, from Crystal Steel Executive Vice President Emad...
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. meets with Choptank Community Health President and CEO Sara Rich, Vice President of Quality and Population Health Susan Johnson and Director of Community Based Programs and Population Health Shelley Andrews at Federalsburg...