Edition for Tuesday, April 7, 2020
To view this Daily Impact online, click here.
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!
Governor Mills Announces
Plan to Open Alternative Care Sites in Coordination With Maine Hospitals
& Cities of Portland and Bangor
Sites could serve less acute patients to free up hospital
capacity for COVID-19 cases
Governor Janet Mills today
directed the Maine National Guard and the Maine Emergency Management Agency
(MEMA) to work with Maine's health care systems to open
two alternative care sites in Portland and Bangor as
part of the State's preparations to bolster Maine health system capacity in
the face of COVID-19.
The Governor's Office and
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including the Maine Center
for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), are partnering with MaineHealth, Northern Light Health, Central
Maine Healthcare, MaineGeneral
Health, and the Maine Hospital
Association on comprehensive surge planning to ensure adequate capacity
for the treatment for Mainers with COVID-19. These alternative care sites,
which are part of this plan, will free up hospital beds, if needed, to
accommodate a potential surge of COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. This
effort is a result of the Mills Administration's broader partnership with
Maine health systems and providers, first responders, and community providers
throughout the State to ensure coordination during this fast-moving pandemic.
The effort calls for a total
of 100 beds to be set up at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland and at least 50
beds to be set up at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor as additional
capacity for hospitals. Logistical support will come from the Maine CDC,
Maine National Guard, MEMA, as well as the Cities of Portland and Bangor and
Cumberland and Penobscot Counties. While adequate hospital beds remain
available across the State and are the first choice for treating all patients
in need of inpatient care, the Governor is taking this step to ensure
preparedness in the face of a rapidly evolving situation. The alternative
care sites are expected to be set up as soon as next week, and staffed
shortly thereafter, should they be needed. The health systems will work with
the State on the clinical models and staffing for these sites in the coming
days. Further details will be released once the plan is finalized.
According to modeling, while
Maine's critical care capacity is likely sufficient in aggregate for acute
COVID-19 patients under most scenarios, staffing for and geographic
distribution of those beds remain focal points. Major hospitals are working
on options to augment staffing, transfer patients to other sites, and
otherwise maximize existing capacity.
This capacity could be expanded,
such as by converting some beds to critical care beds, though new capacity
may need to be concentrated in areas where the necessary staff are already
available, in light of preexisting workforce challenges. For example,
MaineGeneral Health has the capacity to convert up to 30 beds for COVID-19
critical care. Maine Medical Center could convert some of the 64 beds on its
new cancer floors to COVID-19 critical care beds. Northern Light Health has
developed a surge plan that will provide care to up to 90 additional patients
(COVID-19 or non-COVID-19) requiring ventilator support.
Join us for a Tele-Town
Hall With Congressman Jared Golden
This week, Congressman Jared Golden is holding two
listening sessions by phone for Maine small businesses. The congressman
wants to hear from small businesses about their challenges during the
coronavirus crisis and what resources they will need going forward.
SBA Administrator Amy Bassett,
Maine Chamber of Commerce President
Dana Connors, and representatives of the state's credit unions and banks
will be joining Congressman Golden to answer questions and offer guidance
about the programs and resources available to help small businesses stay
afloat during this crisis.
The listening sessions will take place at 6:30 p.m. this
Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9. If you would like to
participate, please register online at golden.house.gov/live and
call 855-962-1151 when the event starts. In the meantime, take a look at our Small
Business Resource Page for more information on the small
business loans, grants, and other federal programs available during these
Governor Mills Encourages
Maine Small Businesses to Apply to Federal Paycheck Protection Program
Governor Janet Mills is encouraging
Maine small business owners to consider applying for assistance with
payroll, rent, and other operational expenses through the new federal Paycheck
Protection Program. The program, administered by the U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA), is a loan program designed by Congress to help
businesses keep their workforce employed during the novel coronavirus
(COVID-19) pandemic. The SBA will forgive loans through the program for
eligible small businesses if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight
weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or
"Small businesses are the backbone of our state's economy, and there is no question that they - and their hardworking employees - are facing significant hardship as a result of COVID-19," said Governor Mills. "The Paycheck Protection Program can deliver vital capital to small businesses and critical income to their workers. I highly encourage Maine small businesses to consider whether this program can help them and their employees during this challenging time."
Governor Mills also applauded
Maine's banks and lending institutions for standing up the program so quickly
over the weekend in order to provide immediate help to Maine small businesses
According to U.S. Senator
Susan Collins, who co-authored the legislation creating the program, a
total of 1,816 Maine employers have been approved for $510.9
million in Paycheck Protection Plan loans. Lenders began processing loan
applications April 3, 2020 and the program is available through June 30,
Maine small businesses are also eligible for Economic Injury Disaster loans through the SBA. According to the SBA, the loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for small businesses and may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can't be paid because of the disaster's impact.
Maine State Chamber's
Webinar Offers Guidance and Information Concerning the Emergency Paid Sick
Leave, Expanded Family Medical Leave, and Payroll Tax Credit Provisions
This morning, the Maine
State Chamber, in partnership
Atwood, hosted a webinar for employers on
the latest guidance and information concerning the emergency paid sick leave,
expanded family medical leave, and payroll tax credit provisions of the Families First Coronavirus
Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security Act (CARES)
Act. More than 170 participants from businesses across Maine attended the
Maine State Chamber EVP Peter Gore
moderated the event. Katy Rand, a partner at Pierce Atwood, presented to
attendees. With so many variables, exceptions and ambiguity in the FFCRA and
CARES Act, understanding the details of this new law is important for every
Rand presented detailed guidance on
the family and medical leave expansion in the FFCRA, including qualifications
for paid sick leave, eligibility, and the amount of pay. Rand also addressed
provisions allowing employers to be reimbursed for paid family and medical
leave through a payroll tax credit, and specific guidance for employers on
IRS requirements for documentation. Regarding whether employers can require
employees to use PTO, Rand indicated this is unclear in the FFCRA and that
more guidance is being sought.
Regarding changes to unemployment
insurance at both the state and federal levels, Rand noted that eligibility
has been expanded, the waiting period has been waived, and emphasized that
employers' experience ratings will not be impacted if employees are laid-off
due to the pandemic. Direct reimburser relief is
also built into the CARES Act. Due to increased payments through federal
compensation that will go into effect once a state formally enters into an
agreement with the federal government, Rand mentioned that there are
circumstances where someone will earn more on unemployment than they may
currently working. It is important to note that the U.S. Department of Labor
still expects states to investigate and police fraud in those cases where
employees may be trying to take advantage of this situation.
Rand also touched on specifics of the
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and loan forgiveness. PPP offers loans of 2.5 times
the monthly payroll for employers with fewer than 500 employees. For the
loans to be forgiven, employers are required to spend at least 75% on payroll
costs. The employee tax credit is a different option for businesses who do
not borrow under PPP.
If you missed the live webinar this
morning, please click here to listen to the recording. Stay tuned for invitations to
additional webinars the Maine State Chamber plans to host on important business issues surrounding
U.S. Department of Labor
Issues Guidance on Unemployment Insurance
Among the issues on which we
are getting the most questions are those surrounding the changes made to
Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.
As has been widely reported the CARES Act provides significant
expanded benefits for many employees and made some who were previously
ineligible for UI, like the self employed and independent contractors, newly
While there are many changes
from the CARES Act, some basic points are worth keeping mind:
* UI is still a state
administered benefit, with federal requirements overlayed. In the case of the
CARES Act, UI will still be provided through state agencies, in most cases
after the state government signs an agreement with DOL. Thus, when
determining eligibility requirements, it's best to consult your state's UI
* Special Note on the Federal
Unemployment Program Update from Maine DOL: Implementation is still in
progress - new benefits are not yet available. All states, including Maine,
still have not received the necessary guidance from the U.S. Department of
Labor to implement the new federal unemployment benefits for people who are
self-employed. U.S. DOL guidance was issued Saturday regarding eligibility
for $600 payments. This is the first step. Both programs will be available
retroactively once implemented. Stay tuned!
* To be eligible for UI benefits, an employee must be temporarily or permanently laid off or suffer a reduction in hours. They must also be able, available, and actively looking for work, although states have some flexibility in interpreting these requirements.
* The highly publicized
supplemental benefit of $600 expires on July 31, 2020. This additional amount
is available to employees claiming traditional state UI benefits, those who
were not previously eligible for UI but were made so under the CARES Act, and
those who are claiming benefits because their hours have been reduced.
* Individuals who exhaust
their traditional 26 weeks of state UI benefits are eligible for an
additional 13 weeks (total of 39). If these weeks occur after July 31, 2020,
the benefit will only be the traditional state UI benefit without the
additional $600 unless Congress authorizes an extension.
* Unless a state programs says
otherwise, an employee who is teleworking for pay, or taking paid leave is
generally ineligible for regular UI benefits.
The CARES Act states that employees receiving new Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance are ineligible if they are getting paid leave
The Department of Labor's
Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has authority for implementing
the UI provisions of the CARES Act.
They have issued the following sets of guidance:
1 The first ETA guidance from
March 22 talks about state flexibility to
determine eligibility for UI;
2 The second guidance
summarizes the major
3 The third guidance discusses
the mechanics of the Federal Pandemic
Unemployment Compensation program; and,
4 The fourth guidance discusses the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and includes clarifying examples.
We Want to Hear From You!
In this extraordinary time, we are looking for ways to creatively communicate. For now, face-to-face, in-person meetings have been put on hold. Instead, we are seeing and meeting with each other virtually or over the phone. However, the most powerful way for us to communicate - the written word - remains always available. And we want you to share your words with us and with the rest of the business community.
Starting next week, we are offering blog space in our Daily Impact for our members to
tell their story.
We want to hear from you - what challenges you face
and how you've overcome them. What you and your employees are thinking and
doing in this dramatically different world in which we continue to operate.
Tell us about what innovations your company or employees might be doing. How
you may have retooled or adapted your company to meet your customers' needs.
Basically, we want to hear about what you are doing, how you are doing it,
and what it has meant to your business and your employees in the current
COVID-19 environment in your own plain-spoken words.
Each blog entry should
be 300 to 500 words. We truly hope you consider this offer to join us in
create a written history of the business community's resilience and
innovation during this extraordinary timeframe in our country and in our
Maine Small Businesses, Individuals Should be Wary of
COVID-19 Scam Surge
Scammers are using the COVID-19 crisis to steal money from both businesses and individuals in a variety of ways, officials from financial, consumer and government agencies warn. The U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and state finance and banking departments have all issued alerts about scams related to the health crisis and its economic impact in recent days. Multiple resources for businesses and individuals to recognize and report scams are available.
Amy K. Bassett, district director of SBA's Maine district
office, is this week's special guest on The Bottom Line podcast broadcasting live at 10:00 a.m. on
Thursday, April 9, 2020. She will join The Bottom Line co-hosts Dana Connors
of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and John Williams of Williams
Broadcasting to discuss the latest developments and challenges businesses are
facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and accessing the programs available to
businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic through the federal
rescue package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES)
Share Your Story With Us!
The stories below are
just a few examples of numerous Maine companies stepping up or pivoting to
make the desperately-needed protective gear and other products, as Maine
people resourcefully address the challenges of this pandemic. If your company
is one of the many "Mainers helping Mainers," we want to hear your
Spectrum Hiring 100
Workers, Giving Across-The-Board Raises in Portland
According to a recent Press
Herald story, Spectrum is looking to hire
at least 100 customer service workers for its call center in
Portland. Even before the coronavirus pandemic resulted in thousands of
Mainers filing for unemployment, Spectrum had planned to expand its workforce
to help deliver and manage internet, television, voice and mobile networks,
the company said Monday.
"Now more than ever, our essential workforce continues to provide the critical task of helping customers stay connected during this very challenging time," said Lara Pritchard, senior director of communications for the Northeast region. "People are out of work, and we have jobs available that will help us to continue to deliver and support the communities we serve."
The company also announced a
$1.50 hourly raise for field operations and customer service employees,
retroactive to last month when they received their regular annual merit
increases. That lifts Spectrum's minimum wage to $16.50 and is part of a plan
wages to at least $20 per hour by 2022.
SMCC students getting
on-the-job training due to coronavirus
Students studying respiratory therapy at Southern Maine Community College are getting some valuable on-the-job training because of the coronavirus. SMCC says eight students from their respiratory therapy program are assisting veteran therapists at Maine Medical Center because of the coronavirus, something the students say is both scary and meaningful. Erin Ganga and Maddie Cole are SMCC student trainees and credit the college with preparing them to deal with the coronavirus. Both students say the coronavirus has put a spotlight on respiratory therapists and how valuable they are. The professors at SMCC say their students are making a difference. Roy-Gosselin says while the students aren't dealing with COVID-19 patients themselves, they are assisting the respiratory therapists who are on the front line by delivering medications and performing breathing treatments.
device may help more COVID-19 patients breathe
A recent Mainebiz story
featured Amplify Additive, which is located in Scarborough. The company is
developing a device to make
more efficient use of scarce medical ventilators,
desperately needed to treat patients with COVID-19. Where enough ventilators
aren't available, Amplify's splitter device might allow one ventilator to
help multiple patients breathe.
Brian McLaughlin, the
company's founder and owner, and his team scoured the internet for
open-source designs of products that could help alleviate the current
shortage of lifesaving equipment, according to a news
release. The team accessed a design from Interactive CAD Solutions
for a ventilator splitter and adapted it to their software and 3D printing
machines. Made of implant-grade titanium that is used for orthopedic implant
applications, the devices can be sterilized in the hospital setting via
Amplify began working on
titanium-printed prototypes a week ago. After successfully designing a
prototype, the team set to work on a short-term solution to saving lives.
When stacked and printed, Amplify Additive could develop around 40 parts
every two to three days on each of their three machines, creating nearly
1,000 in a month.
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