Morning Read: People on Government Assistance at Record High in Maryland

The number of Maryland families relying on government support to stay afloat has reached a record high.

More than 700,000 people receive food assistance -- the most in state history -- and a record 70,000 people depend on emergency cash assistance, according to Capital News Service.

Despite this, state and federal officials are budgeting less money for the safety nets this coming fiscal year, highlighting the government’s confidence in the recovery.

But still, some question if the government is projecting positive estimates to balance the state budget.

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Via Capital News Service:

“It took from January 2008 to February 2012 to double the number of people enrolled in the Food Supplement Program,” said Neil Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute. “It’s not going to go down all that way in one year.”

Demand for these social services has been so high, according to Capital News Service, the Department of Human Resources, which helps Maryland families with child care, cash and food assistance and medical services, requested an additional $30 million in state funding in fiscal 2012.

This occurred even though federal funding for the department has doubled to nearly $2 billion since the recession began. Read the full story here.

* Democratic Virginia Senate hopeful Tim Kaine criticized Senate Democrats for not calling a confirmation hearing for Marilyn Tavenner, President Obama’s nominee to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, according to Politico.

When Kaine was governor of Virginia, Tavenner served as his secretary of health and human services of the state.

Via Politico:

“I’m not sure which is worse -- that the Senate doesn’t feel the need to hold a confirmation hearing for the person in charge of the largest single line item in the federal budget or that it’s an open question whether someone as qualified as Marylin Tavenner could get confirmed in this political climate,” Kaine said in a statement on Tuesday.

“For six years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has operated without a confirmed administrator, leaving this vital department in a state of limbo and preventing the organization from making the long-term adjustments necessary to ensure its viability. That’s unacceptable,” he added.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said last week that he had no plans to hold a hearing on Tavenner because it was “virtually impossible” to imagine her getting 60 votes because of Republican obstruction, according to Politico.

The Washingtonian’s Harry Jaffe predicts the odds are 60-40 that criminal charges reach Mayor Vincent Gray. Here's why:

"There's more bad news for Vince Gray to follow the fall of Tom Gore. My sources say Gore is not the only Gray insider who has been talking to federal authorities. Among them are advisers Green, Vernon Hawkins, Howard Brooks, and Jean Harris, whose offices were raided by the FBI.

Another problem for Gray might be that according to my sources, Mark Long has been talking to federal agents. Long has run for city council and now works for at-large council member Vincent Orange. Long also worked for Jean Harris, contributed money to the Gray campaign, and served as Gray's driver at various times during the campaign. Drivers hear lots of things. How good is Long's memory? Does he have recollections that might incriminate the mayor?

The question is, what did Gray know about the payments to Brown? Will his friends finger him? More important, did he tell the truth to federal officials when they asked him about the payments?"

* The owners of the Fojol Bros. -- the D.C. food truck that serves Indian, Thai and Ethiopian food from people in costumes, fake mustaches and fake accents -- issued an apology on their Facebook page to people who are offended by their shtick.

 As Washington City Paper points out, this is your classic non-apology apology:

"The fojol bros. apologize to those who have been offended. That was not, is not, and will never be our intent. Fojol is a celebration of food and community, infused with creativity and entertainment. Fojol's owners were born and raised in Washington, DC, but our workforce includes women and men from around the world. Our mission is to embody a traveling culinary carnival. Our clothing and design have two distinct influences: the countries that inspire our food and the carnival’s whimsical nature. Our mustaches are a symbol across all three trucks, paying tribute to circus showmen of the past. Fojol’s aesthetic is in no way meant to be a caricature of any cultural or ethnic group. Fojol’s goal remains the same -- to bring healthy, affordable food to the streets, in a colorful atmosphere that lifts people's spirits and encourages community."

* About four dozen prisoners at Virginia’s only super-maximum prison started a hunger strike Tuesday to protest what they call poor conditions, ongoing abuse and the practice of solitary confinement, according to The Washington Post.

Attorneys and groups that represent the prisoners at Red Onion State Prison said that complaints about the use of isolation were previously made, but the state made no changes.

In March, state officials said they would implement sweeping changes to the prison as part of Gov. McDonnell’s four-year plan to help prisoners reenter society, but prisoners say the changes did not come quickly enough. Read the full article here.

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