Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Another week has passed at home, and I know many of us are getting restless. None of us ever expected to be juggling homeschooling children while navigating remote work. None of us were prepared to stock our pantries for weeks and think of ways to entertain our loved ones at home. None of us expected to be among the millions of Americans who have lost their job and are worried about when the next paycheck is coming. This is hard.
This week, Maine’s Commissioner of Education recommended that all our schools remain in distance learning for the rest of the school year, and the schools in our area will be following that guidance.
Also this week, Gov. Mills announced that the date of our spring primary election will be moved from June 9 to July 14. The change provides more time for Mainers to request absentee ballots and more time for the Secretary of State to develop guidelines and help municipalities conduct in-person voting in as safe a manner as possible.
Both of these updates signal that we are not yet near the end of this COVID-19 crisis. But there are some bright spots. There is the generosity of Maine’s public universities and community colleges supplying needed materials, research and even campus buildings to aid in the effort. There are the businesses shifting their focus to making personal protective equipment for health care workers and everyday Mainers.
It’s hard to feel lucky right now, but stories like these remind me that I’m lucky to be facing this pandemic in a state where people step up for each other.
Please reach out and let me know if there is any support I can provide or questions I can answer.
Serving District 135,
Your Federal Stimulus Check
As a result of the last federal stimulus package, Americans will be receiving direct payments to help them through the pandemic. If you filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes, there is no action for you to take. Your eligibility will be based on your income. Adults could receive up to $1,200 each, $2,400 for couples, and an additional $500 for each child 17 and under.
If you didn’t file your 2018 or 2019 taxes: Go to the IRS’s website to apply for your check as soon as possible. If you’re on Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), Railroad Retirement or survivor benefits, you will automatically receive a $1,200 check. However, if you have children under 17 in your home, you will need to apply to receive their $500 check.
I’d like to again share resources to help with the most common COVID-19 problems Mainers are facing:
Frequently Used Resources
- 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.
A Look At Our Legislative Session
While COVID-19 is the defining news in our lives right now, I did want to take a moment and share a brief overview of what we accomplished during the Legislative Session, which ended early on March 17 to observe public health guidelines. On that last day, we passed a set of coronavirus response measures, a supplemental budget and a transportation and broadband bond that will be on your ballot this July. But that is not all that happened this session.
This year, the Legislature passed an affordable housing tax credit that will help us build 1,000 more affordable housing units over the next eight years. We strengthened our “Dig Safe” laws to help prevent tragedies like last year’s devastating explosion in Farmington. And we passed a package of health care bills that will protect Mainers from abusive billing practices and surprise emergency medical bills, and will help lower the high-cost of lifesaving medication. These are just a few highlights from the session, and we still hope to return to finish more of our work when it is safe to do so. But in the meantime, know that even in our abbreviated session, we made important progress.