Edition for Monday, March 31, 2020
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Welcome to your daily Impact newsletter!
As a valued member of the
Maine State Chamber of Commerce, we plan to stay in touch with you every
afternoon, through emails like this one and on Facebook and Twitter, until the pandemic passes. We
intend to provide you with the latest state and federal information, as well
as highlighting the creativity and innovation that is occuring here in Maine
during this unpredictable and rapidly changing time. To assist you in navigating
the uncertainties ahead, we have created a diverse and comprehensive
collection of web-based resources to help you take care of yourself and your family, your employees, your business, and your community. If there is anything you need, please reach out.
We are here to help in any way we can!
Issues Stay Healthy at Home Mandate
Also orders a series of
additional requirements to protect public health and safety in the face of
At a 4:30 p.m. press
conference on Tuesday, March 31, Governor Janet Mills issued a series of
substantial new mandates to protect public health and safety in the face of
COVID-19, including a Stay Healthy at Home directive that requires people
living in Maine to stay at home at all times unless for an essential job or
an essential personal reason, such as obtaining food, medicine, health care,
or other necessary purposes.
The Governor also mandated a
series of other new restrictions, including:
* For essential businesses and
operations that remain open, limiting the number of customers in their
buildings at any one time, implementing curb-side pickup and delivery options
as much as possible, and enforcing U.S. CDC-recommended physical distancing
requirements for their customers and employees in and around their
* Prohibiting the use of
public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be
done from home and limiting the number of people traveling in private
vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for
* Mandating the continued
termination of classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1,
* Mandating that, when out of
the home or when at work at an essential business, individuals shall maintain
a minimum distance of six feet from other persons.
Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2020 and will last until at
least April 30, 2020. The Governor may amend, rescind, or renew this timeline
at her discretion. The Governor also extended the closure of restaurants and
bars statewide for dine-in customers until at least April 30, 2020 to align
with today's Executive Order.
"We are in the midst of one of the greatest public health crises this world has seen in more than a century. This virus will continue to sicken people across our state; our cases will only grow, and more people will die. I say this to be direct, to be as honest with you as I can. Because saving lives will depend on us," said Governor Mills. "I implore you - look to yourself, your family, your friends, your loved ones, your neighbors on the front lines, first responders and health care workers fighting the virus, those who can't stay home; the children who live around the corner, the farmer who grows your food, the grocer and the pharmacist who sell you goods, the teachers who are missing their kids; the fisherman, the sailor, the truck driver, the janitor, the waitress at your favorite diner; these are the people you are protecting by staying home. This is who you are saving."
The Governor's Executive Order
enacts the following:
Stay Healthy at Home
Directive: Governor Mills' "Stay Healthy at Home" Executive Order
requires that Maine people remain at home unless to leave for an essential
job or an essential activity. Essential jobs are defined under Governor
Mills' March 24 Executive Order outlining essential businesses and
operations. The Governor's Executive Order today updates the March 24 Executive
Order to adopt into effect the most recent Guidance on Essential Critical
Infrastructure Workforce from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
Travel Restrictions: The
Order prohibits the use of public transportation unless for an essential
reason or job that cannot be done from home and limits the number of people
traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household
unless transporting for essential personal activities.
Termination of In-Person
Instruction at Schools: Public and private schools and higher
education institutions statewide have terminated in-classroom instruction in
accordance with the Governor's March 15 recommendation. The Governor today
ordered that all such schools shall continue to cease classroom or other
in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020, or until further Order.
Restricting Number of People
in Essential Stores: Under the Executive order, essential
stores with retail spaces of:
* Less than 7,500 square feet
limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 5. Examples of such
stores include gas stations and convenience and specialty food stores.
* More than 7,500 and less
than 25,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one
time to 15. Examples of such stores include stand-alone pharmacies and
certain hardware stores.
* More than 25,000 and less
than 50,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one
time to 50. Examples of such stores
include mid-sized and locally owned grocery stores.
* More than 50,000 and less
than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one
time to 75. Examples of such stores
include chain grocery stores.
* More than 75,000 square feet
limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 100 and install
protective shields between customers and checkout clerks as soon as
practicable. Examples of such stores include Lowe's, Wal-Mart, Target and
There are also preemption and enforcement provisions. Read
the full Executive Order.
Connecting with Maine's
Congressional Delegation on the Federal Stimulus Package
This afternoon, the Maine
State Chamber of Commerce met virtually with U.S. Senator
Susan Collins and U.S.
Senator Angus King to discuss the recently-passed $2.2 trillion COVID-19
relief bill. We would like to thank both Senator Collins and Senator King for
joining us for this unique two-hour briefing for the Maine Chamber Board of
Directors and our friends from the local and regional chambers. Working
closely with Maine's Congressional delegation through this difficult time to ensure
the Maine business community's voice is heard during these difficult days has
been a priority for all of us here at the Maine State Chamber.
On the video conference call,
we were able to hear directly from Senator Collins who was the primary
sponsor of the Paycheck Protection
Act contained with the CARES Act. Sen. Collins was able to share with the
Maine State Chamber of Commerce and our local and regional chambers details
of how the legislation came together and some important aspects of the
bill. For example, sole proprietors
who normally do not qualify for an SBA loan, does qualify for protections
under the new program and that the lending institutions who will be offering
the loans are the current SBA's 7a loan
For the second hour, Senator
King was gracious enough to join us on his birthday and was able to bring us
up to speed on the detailed negotiations that went into passing the CARES
Act. Some of the issues he shared with
the more than 100 participants on the call were some of the details
surrounding the support of our health care industry contained in the legislation along with our
small businesses in Maine. In
addition, he went into detail on how the unemployment expansion contained in
the CARES Act would work.
Being able to host both our U.S. Senators on a video conference with our entire board and the local and regional chambers only days of the bill was passed in signed into law shows how special we are here in Maine to have such direct access to our elected officials. Working together we can weather this storm and be a stronger community and state when this is behind us.
Mills Administration Takes
Steps to Support Personal Care Workers, Maine Seniors in Response to COVID-19
Actions will accelerate benefits for personal care workers
and residents who are home-bound
On Monday, March 30, Governor
Janet Mills and Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services
(DHHS) Jeanne Lambrew announced
that the Administration is accelerating pay increases for personal care
workers and expanding access to meals for older Mainers who are home-bound
because of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Maine DHHS will accelerate MaineCare
(Medicaid) rate increases that are designated to support pay raises for
personal care workers, including personal support specialists, home health
aides, private duty nurses, and other professionals who care for Maine's
older residents at home. Starting April 1, 2020, providers will receive rate
increases that will allow them to fund pay raises for approximately 20,000
personal care workers, instead of on July 1, 2020 as previously approved by
The Legislature previously
ratified this rate increase for the next State fiscal year, but in order to
support these workers and their clients in response to COVID-19, DHHS has
authorized using existing funds to begin all payment rate increases in the
supplemental budget early. The accelerated payments for personal care workers
follow the Mills Administration's earlier action to financially support
Maine's compassionate, quality long-term care providers, through an
extraordinary circumstance allowance for nursing facilities announced last week.
Additionally, Maine has
received $800,000 through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to
support meals for older Mainers who are home-bound, and more federal funding
is expected through future allotments. This is especially important at a time
when the Governor encourages all Maine to people to stay home. DHHS expects
to be able to provide its local partners with this support in the coming
days. Meal delivery volunteers will knock at the door of each home and then
step back to ensure that the meal is received while maintaining physical
MDOL Opted in to New
Temporary Federal Unemployment Programs to help Maine Workers and Employers
during COVID-19 Emergency
The Maine Department
of Labor has opted in to new temporary federal unemployment programs to
provide relief to people in Maine affected by COVID-19. Congress enacted and the President signed
the new CARES Act which includes these provisions on Friday, March 28. On Saturday, March 29, the state completed
the documentation to begin the process for receiving the new federal
unemployment funds. Because Maine already had in place emergency unemployment
insurance (UI) measures of the Governor's COVID-19 bill, Maine was able to
opt-in to the additional $600 per week in benefits and the additional 13
weeks of benefits. These programs are not currently available in Maine but,
once fully implemented, they will temporarily extend the scope and benefits
of the state's unemployment program.
As soon as they are available,
these new temporary
federal programs will bring to Maine people and employers:
* Unemployment benefits for
those not covered by regular unemployment, including the self-employed, those
at home taking care of a child unable to attend school, or whose child care
is unavailable, among others.
* Increased weekly
unemployment benefits of $600 per week added to the regular weekly
unemployment insurance benefits.
* Extended unemployment
benefits for up to 13 additional weeks beyond the regular amount of up to 26
weeks of unemployment insurance, for a total of up to 39 weeks for those who
have exhausted current benefits.
* Support for the layoff
aversion program (Workshare),
an unemployment option that helps businesses retain their workforce during a
temporary slowdown in work. The program allows employers to voluntarily
reduce the hours of staff in lieu of layoffs. Employees of the business are
allowed to collect a partial unemployment benefit to help them offset the
loss of income.
* Provides aid to direct
reimbursable employers by offering 50% federal funding of the
COVID-19-related benefit claims charges. These are government (state, local
and tribal) as well as certain non-profit employers who have chosen to
reimburse the cost of unemployment benefits paid out in lieu of paying
People who have exhausted all
available benefits already or are self-employed should wait to file a claim
for benefits. Since these programs have not been implemented yet, filing at
this point filing will only result in a denial. Those who have already
enrolled in the current program should continue filing weekly certifications.
Maine Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance Program provides partial wage replacement for workers who experience job layoff, loss or reduction in hours through no fault of their own. Those who are unsure if they are eligible for unemployment benefits are encouraged to apply. MDOL will review information provided by both the applicant and the employer to make a case-by-case determination about eligibility. It is highly recommended that all who can, please apply online using a computer. The system is available 24/7 on the unemployment webpage.
The phone is available
1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Monday-Friday. Because so many
Mainers have been impacted, the phone queue fills quickly. The Department
encourages people to keep trying. For simple questions or for password
resets, please call the nearest CareerCenter. Information on the Department's
website is updated frequently, see the COVID-19 page.
For a summary of unemployment
programs both state and federal, please
view the online matrix. Please note that those in orange are not yet
available in Maine but will be in the future. The new temporary federal
programs are complex, and we are working to implement them as quickly as
possible. Those who have exhausted all available benefits already or are
self-employed should wait to file a claim for benefits. Since these programs
have not been implemented yet, filing at this point will only result in a
denial. We will continue to provide information as it becomes available. Once
implemented, benefits will be paid retroactively. If you have already
enrolled in the current program, you should continue filing your weekly
Local chambers of commerce
launch Pay It Forward Maine
As businesses and employers
try to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, the Portland Regional
Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce
and several local and regional chambers of commerce across the state have
launched Pay It Forward Maine.
"In this unprecedented time, we know everyone is feeling the financial impact, especially our small businesses who make up 99% of our business community in the state," Quincy Hentzel, CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release. "We want to make sure that when we get to the other side of this pandemic, our local businesses are still there for us. So, we need to be there for them now. This campaign will allow our community to rally, as they always do in times of crises and hardship, and discover ways they can still support their favorite establishments over the next few months."
As part of the campaign,
individuals are asked to continue supporting local businesses by buying gift
cards, gift certificates or passes to use when the storefronts are open
again; use take-out, delivery or drive through options at restaurants;
purchase merchandise and goods online or volunteer to deliver products to
those in need; pass out meals for local students or provide child-care or
instruction for children whose parents are busy working.
Connecting through the Airwaves
At 10:00 a.m. on Thursday,
April 2, 2020, The Bottom Line
podcast will host U.S. Senator Angus King. The Senator joins The Bottom Line co-hosts Dana Connors
of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and John Williams of Williams
Broadcasting to discuss the federal programs available to eligible Maine
businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. To listen, scroll
down to "Listen Online" at www.williamsbroadcasting.net.
Note: Normally, The Bottom Line is recorded twice per month.
For the time being,
the podcast will be recorded weekly on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m.
In case you missed this morning's 6:30 a.m. interview, Dana Connors spoke with WVOM's Ric Tyler
encouraging businesses to prepare now for the CARES Act loans application
Legal Matters to Consider
in a Pandemic
Several of our members have assembled comprehensive legal information to help you navigate in the unprecedented and unpredictable times. These are not endorsements or promotions, simply a sharing of information and resources.
Littler's COVID-19 Task Force
is here to help employers confront the workplace challenges related to the
global spread of the novel coronavirus. With years of experience counseling
clients worldwide on workplace safety and health, leave and accommodation, policies
and procedures and other employment and labor law issues, our team of
attorneys can provide practical advice and strategies for these challenging
With so much information, so
many decisions and so little time to address issues raised by the coronavirus
pandemic, you need help at your fingertips.�
Pierce Atwood has compiled a directory of Pierce
Atwood COVID-19 attorneys who are knowledgeable on the various questions
and challenges you may be confronting. We will continue to add information and
updates about the specific topics regularly.
As the global COVID-19 public
health emergency continues to spread and create challenges for businesses
leaders have been meeting daily to share information from leading health
authorities, governments, and global and local businesses. The firm is also
closely monitoring the response of our law firm peers and leading companies
in our communities.
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