FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 17, 2020
Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills and the State Legislature spearheaded a package of emergency measures to respond to COVID-19 today. One emergency bill grants Governor Mills access to at least $11 million in State funding to respond to COVID-19, while another omnibus emergency bill expands authorities of State and local officials to allow them greater flexibility to respond to the virus and to provide support to Maine workers impacted by the virus. The bills were enacted by the Legislature and Governor Mills will sign them tomorrow.
These measures include:
- Establishing a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine;
- Temporarily expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19;
- Increasing the Department of Education’s ability to waive certain school-day requirements and to continue school lunch programs for all eligible children;
- Authorizing Governor Mills to adjust state, county and municipal government deadlines and to permit all public entities to meet by remote participation;
- Expanding the ability of Maine Emergency Medical Services’ Board and staff to take actions more promptly;
- Authorizing Governor Mills to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service;
- Authorizing Governor Mills to determine and direct the manner of the June 2020 primary, if necessary;
- Delaying the effective date of the single-use plastic bag ban to January 15, 2021.
“These emergency measures will support the State’s response to the coronavirus and mitigate its spread in Maine,” said Governor Mills. “Protecting the health and well-being of Maine people is a responsibility at the core of State government, and I am grateful to lawmakers for uniting in support of these measures so we can implement them swiftly.”
“From the moment we walked through the State House doors this morning, our number one priority was to make sure Mainers were taken care of during this public health crisis. We’ve heard from hardworking families worried about how they will make ends meet while their employer is temporarily closed. We’ve heard from small business owners, who are worried that their business will shutter for good if the crowds continue to stay home. Mainers are counting on us to have their back. With this COVID-19 package, we can make sure resources are available when Mainers need them most,” said Senate President Troy Jackson. “There’s no doubt that this pandemic has sent shockwaves throughout the state, but at the same time, Maine people, organizations, businesses and state agencies have all stepped up to support one another. This is not only how we are going to get through this crisis as a state, but what being a Mainer is all about.”
“We have made it a priority for state government to respond swiftly to aid those most in need and have acted to provide support that will be available as soon as possible,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow.
“Today we came together to protect the health and financial security of Maine’s working families and to address the immediate concerns we are facing,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon. “There is much we still don’t know about the days and weeks ahead, but what I do know is that we are all in this together and we are resilient. Across Maine government, this response effort will continue as we work to put in place effective, evidence-based measures to ensure the safety of Maine families, communities and our economy.”
“We are hopeful these measures will support a statewide response to the challenges posed by COVID-19,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “As Mainers, we will get through these unprecedented times by supporting each other.”
These measures come in addition to a bipartisan agreement on a revised supplemental budget proposal that protects the health and well-being of Maine people as the State responds to COVID-19. The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee unanimously approved the proposal yesterday and the Legislature passed it today.
The Legislature also voted on several other time-sensitive and health-related legislation before adjourning sine die.
Governor Mills has said she intends to call the Legislature back for a Special Session as soon as is safe and prudent and that it is her strong preference that during such a session priority attention be given to only the most pressing matters.