By Rep. Tiffany RobertsPosted May 9, 2020 at 8:03 AM
In the past week, we’ve seen small shifts towards normalcy. The sun has come out and the spring flowers have started to bloom. We’ve seen consistently lower numbers of COVID-19 cases that suggest Maine is successfully flattening the curve. Some of the pandemic response protocols have been loosened. We are not out of the woods yet, but we can see some light. As we continue to navigate this unusual time, I wanted to share some updates and resources that may be helpful to you.
All of us are worried about the toll our COVID-19 response is taking on our economy. To help the state reopen as soon as it is safe to do so, Gov. Mills announced a set of guiding principles and a phased approach that will allow her, with the help of medical professionals and business owners, to facilitate our reopening. As of May 1, the “Stay Healthy at Home” has been replaced by the “Stay Safer at Home” order. This order outlines a four stage plan to reopen Maine’s economy, opening more and more kinds of businesses each month, expanding limits on group sizes, and slowly lifting social distancing guidelines over the course of the summer. More details can be found at www.maine.gov/covid19/restartingmaine.
It is important to note that the plan to reopen Maine’s economy is not set in stone. Gov. Mills has stressed that as the public health situation changes, and as we develop better solutions for the economy, the plan could change and the timeline could be shortened or extended. As part of this reopening, the Department of Economic and Community Development, which is leading the plan to restart Maine’s economy, has opened an online portal for Mainers to submit their ideas for how to improve our reopening plan. The Governor is also convening an economic recovery committee that will have 37 members representing business, community leaders, workers and lawmakers who will report back on the economic impacts of the pandemic and make policy recommendations. This feedback, along with continued consultation with medical experts and business leaders, will help shift the plan into a strategy that works for as many Mainers as possible.
Unfortunately, many Mainers need relief now and this pandemic has shown us that our unemployment benefit system was simply not ready for a crisis of this magnitude. I know many of you have been encountering system errors and some have been waiting on application approval.
At a time when many people are worried they won’t be able to afford groceries, I know that waiting is incredibly difficult. I do want to assure you that the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) is working in overdrive to address the unprecedented number of claims they’ve received over the past month. They have hired 100 new employees to cover the phones and they are working to get money out to qualifying individuals as soon as possible. For those of you who were waiting for expanded eligibility, as of May 1 MDOL is accepting applications for self-employed workers, independent contractors, fisherman and farmers, gig economy workers and others. Visit the MDOL website to learn more.
While many of us are staying home and staying healthy, our frontline COVID-19 responders are putting their health on the line every day for us. From the health care workers taking care of our sick to our law enforcement officers keeping us safe, I am grateful to you, and I recognize the additional stress being placed on you at this time. I want to share that the Mills administration has rolled out a new FrontLine Warmline, this phone line will help callers to deal with anxiety, irritability, stress, grief or worry and, if needed, connect you with additional supports. The line is staffed by volunteer professionals, including licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers and nurse practitioners. The FrontLine Warmline is available to clinicians and first responders from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week by calling (207) 221-8196 or 866-367-4440.
It’s our teamwork that has kept Maine’s numbers low. I am grateful to be a part of that team, and am here to help when you need it. I am available at 207-287-1430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we keep working together, we will get through the rest of this public health crisis and all the ripple effects it brings.
Rep. Tiffany Roberts represents parts of North and South Berwick in the Maine House of Representatives. She is serving her first term in the Maine State Legislature and is a member of the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.