Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope your first week under Gov. Mills’ “Stay Healthy at Home” order has been a positive one. I know we all miss our friends, families and daily routines. I miss being out in our community and all the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with so many of you. But each day that passes is another day we’ve done our part to protect public health, and another day closer to getting through this pandemic together.
There are two statewide updates I want to share this week. First, last Friday Gov. Mills mandated that travelers coming into Maine, regardless of their residency, self-quarantine for 14 days. To deter travel, the Governor also suspended lodging operations, including hotels, motels, inns and short-term rentals like Airbnb, RV parks and campgrounds. There are exceptions for people traveling for essential services or in vulnerable housing situations.
Gov. Mills also signed an executive order last week to help Maine families buy nutritious food and cover the costs of essentials like housing and medications. If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, you may now have access to more or longer benefits. Applications for those benefits have also been streamlined for those that are eligible. Learn more at this link.
I hope these updates and resources are getting you the information you need most. Please reach out to let me know if there is anything else I can be sharing or doing to help you and our community though this time. And remember, even in the hardest times, there’s always some good news out there.
Serving District 135,
Applying for Unemployment Benefits
If your workplace was temporarily closed or you are taking an unpaid leave of absence due to the pandemic, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The best way to apply is online at reemployme.maine.gov where you can submit a claim anytime. If you do not have access to the internet or are having trouble online, you can file over the phone at 1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. To help manage the many claims coming in, the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) has started a new alphabetical-by-last-name call schedule. MDOL will take calls from people with last names beginning with A-H on Mondays; I-Q on Tuesdays; R-Z on Wednesdays and anyone on Thursdays and Fridays.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The federal government passed legislation to expand UI benefits to more people, like those who are self-employed. MDOL is working to implement that program, if you are self-employed, keep checking their website for updates and do not apply until that system is in place.
If you are healthy and able, the Red Cross is asking you to consider giving blood. There is no known end date in this fight against coronavirus and the Red Cross needs the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to maintain a sufficient blood supply for weeks to come. The Red Cross follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need. Schedule an appointment here.
Frequently Used Resources
I’ve shared these resources before, but here are some links to help with the most common COVID-19 problems Mainers are facing:
- NEW: A new Paycheck Protection Program implemented through the federal stimulus package. This program helps small businesses and sole proprietors access loans with loan forgiveness when they keep employees on their payroll.
- A statewide COVID-19 response website that includes a directory of how each Maine agency is responding, as well as resources for health care, small businesses, education, family care and more.
- A compilation of resources, updates and help created by Maine Equal Justice for Mainers trying to manage health care, food security, evictions, court proceedings and other issues during this time.
- A Maine Department of Labor COVID-19 webpage to help navigate unemployment insurance benefits.
- The website for small businesses to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the US Small Business Administration.
- Detailed information on the FAME COVID-19 Consumer Loan Guarantee Program offering low-or-no interest loans to qualifying applicants.
- An online application for businesses that believe they should be classified as essential under Gov. Mills’ March 24 Executive Order.
- A resource to get answers any time by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please take a look at this page I’ve put together compiling a number of links to federal, state and local resources all in one place. Hopefully it will help point you in the right direction as we all navigate this pandemic together.
Have you filled out the 2020 US Census? If not, take five minutes to visit 2020Census.gov and use the unique ID you’ve received in the mail to record everyone who lives in your household. The US Census happens only once every 10 years, and the count dictates how much federal funding Maine will receive for critical programs. A more accurate count means more money for our state.