March 18, 2020
AUGUSTA – The Legislative delegation from southern York County voted in favor of a number of bills Tuesday that will help support Maine people and businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19. These bills received broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House.
Sen. Mark Lawrence, D-Eliot, released the following statement:
“We could never have anticipated the circumstances of this session, but I’m grateful that my colleagues and I were able to act swiftly to protect Maine during this coronavirus pandemic. The legislation we passed Tuesday will help folks who suddenly find themselves out of a job, small business owners who are not sure how they are going to pay rent, and parents who have kids to take care of during the school day. Amidst this uncertain time, Mainers can know that the Legislature has their backs.”
Reps. Lydia Blume, D-York, Dan Hobbs, D-Wells, Patty Hymanson, D-York, Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, Tiffany Roberts, D-South Berwick, Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, released the following statement:
We know people in our community are worried not only for their health, but for all the unexpected consequences that come with responding to COVID-19, like effects on our schools, small businesses and tourism industry. As legislators, keeping Mainers healthy while also giving them the tools they need to succeed is our biggest concern. We hope the bills passed Tuesday will address some of the obstacles youre facing, and we will continue to look for ways to provide relief to our community.
Measures passed Tuesday include provisions to:
- Establish a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine;
- Authorize Gov. Mills to determine and direct the manner of the June 2020 elections;
- Temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19;
- Increase the Department of Educations ability to waive certain school-day requirements and to continue school lunch programs for all eligible children;
- Authorizing Gov. Mills to adjust state, county and municipal government deadlines and to permit additional flexibility for municipal and school board budgets;
- Permitting all public entities to meet by remote participation;
- Expand the ability of Maine Emergency Medical Services Board and staff to take actions more promptly;
- Authorize Gov. Mills to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service;
- Delaying the effective date of the single-use plastic bag ban to January 15, 2021.
The consumer loan program goes through local banks and credit unions, with loans backed by the state. Mainers who have been economically impacted by the pandemic can obtain zero interest personal loans, of up to $5,000 per month for up to three months.
In addition, Gov. Janet Mills has declared an insurance emergency and a state of civil emergency to help state agencies respond to the public health crisis quickly and effectively.
The insurance emergency ensures that all health insurance plans will cover 100% of the cost of testing for COVID-19, with absolutely no cost sharing to the consumer. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has released guidelines to help Mainers without insurance get tested at low or no cost. Those guidelines can be found here.
On Sunday, Governor Janet Mills declared a state of civil emergency, and outlined four major recommendations that will help slow the spread of the coronavirus in Maine. Those recommendations, which were updated on Wednesday, include:
- Ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical.
- Postponing all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state.
- Restricting visitors and all non-essential health care personnel to long-term care facilities except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life.
- Banning all events with 10 or more people.
- Stopping dine-in service for restaurants and bars, beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, until March 31. Take-out and delivery options may continue.
- Urging non-essential businesses such as gyms, hair salons, theatres, casinos and shopping malls to close for two weeks.
The Governors recommendations are in effect until further notice.
At the end of Tuesday, the Maine Legislature adjourned sine die, until further notice. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the State House will be closed to the public until March 30.
Lisa Haberzettl [Lawrence], 207-251-3548
Katie Walsh [Blume, Hobbs, Hymanson, Meyer, Roberts, Rykerson] 287-1436, 776-2122