Edition for Thursday, June 18, 2020
To view this edition of Impact online,
your COVID-19 Impact newsletter!
As a valued member of
the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, we plan to stay in touch with you
several times each week 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.
Do you have a question? ASK THE EXPERTS.
We are here to
help in any way we can!
Protecting Businesses from
COVID-19 Liability and Lawsuits
As businesses in Maine and across the
country are working hard to reopen safely - and taking all the necessary
precautions to keep their employees and customers healthy amid the COVID-19
pandemic - many small business owners are becoming increasingly worried about
the possibility of lawsuits. According to a recent U.S. Chamber and MetLife Small Business Coronavirus
Impact Poll, two-thirds (67%) of small businesses with
20-500 employees and a majority (51%) of small businesses with 5-19 employees
are worried about the possibility of lawsuits related to the
The business community is asking for
temporary "safe harbor" protections at the federal level to give employers
some degree of assurance that, if they have taken reasonable steps to follow
public health guidelines, they won't face further financial hardships through
unwarranted, needless lawsuits. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce will keep
Maine businesses updated on "safe harbor" protections as those work their way
through the U.S. Congress.
To learn more about why temporary
coronavirus liability relief is needed for American businesses, please visit
the U.S. Chamber's resource page
and watch the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's video series of first-hand accounts
from small business owners who share their
experiences and concerns about reopening. If you'd like to have your voice
heard in this video series, please reach out to Amanda Hyman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changes to the PPP Program
Aim to Provide Borrowers With More Flexibility
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has
updated its Guide
to PPP Loan Forgiveness. This guide reflects recent substantive
changes made by Congress and the administration to the PPP program to provide
borrowers with more flexibility. These changes include:
* Extending the time to spend PPP
funds from 8 weeks to 24 weeks;
* Lowering the amount that must be
spent on payroll from 75% to 60%;
* Extending the deadline to restore
FTEs and payroll from June 30, 2020, to December 31, 2020; and,
* Setting the repayment term for
loans made after June 4, 2020, at five years.
The U.S. Chamber's updated Guide to PPP Forgiveness reflects all of these changes, as well as others made in recent guidance issued by the Department of the Treasury. It is designed to help employers more easily understand the forgiveness application process. However, please note that while this guide reflects all of the most recent changes, it is possible that further changes could be made. Therefore, this guide will be updated as needed.
BIW Delivers First Six
Swab-Making Machines to Puritan Medical Products
Yesterday, Mainebiz reported that Bath Iron Works
six of the 30 machines being built for Puritan Medical Products so the
medical swab company can rapidly expand its ability to meet demand for
COVID-19 testing components. Guilford-based Puritan, the only U.S.
manufacturer of the sterile swabs used in COVID-19 testing, has been tasked
by the federal government to increase its production to meet a nationwide
shortage. Bath Iron Works, owned by General Dynamics Corp., builds destroyers
and sophisticated systems for the U.S. Navy. But in an unusual venture
outside its core industry, BIW was hired by Puritan to manufacture the
machines necessary to ramp up swab production. The U.S. Air Force, which is
coordinating contracts under the Defense Production Act, identified Bath Iron
Works as uniquely capable to build the machinery within the required
timeframe. Another delivery of machines is scheduled for later this week,
according to a news release.
Fitness Centers, Nail
Salons, Tattoo Parlors Reopen in Southern Maine
Wednesday was reopening day for such businesses in
Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties, but many decided to wait.
According to a story in today's
Portland Press Herald, Wednesday
was reopening day in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties for
fitness centers, nail salons, tattoo parlors, brewery tasting rooms and
restaurant dining rooms. Gov. Janet Mills lifted
restrictions on indoor dining and exercise, as long as the facilities
follow health and safety guidelines designed to slow the spread of COVID-19
Gyms and fitness centers originally were
scheduled to resume more robust operations on June 1, but the Mills
administration adjusted its plans after studies raised concerns about virus
transmission among people exerting themselves indoors. On June 12, gyms and fitness centers in the 13 Maine counties with
fewer cases of coronavirus were allowed to reopen.
July 1 Opening for Maine Bar,
Tavern Indoor Service May be Moved Back
This afternoon, Mainebiz and the Portland Press Herald both reported that two COVID-19 cases tied
to indoor bar service in other states may spur the state to move
back the projected July 1 opening of bar and tavern indoor service in
Maine. Nirav Shah, director of Maine CDC said Wednesday that outbreaks in Florida
and Idaho, along with elements that make bars susceptible to COVID-19, have
caused the state to "re-evaluate
the timeline" for opening indoor service here. He said no definite
decisions have been made on the reopening, but health officials are following
State officials have said from
the beginning that the timeline is a guide, but will change as metrics
concerning cases and testing are evaluated throughout the course of the
pandemic. Shah said at his daily briefing Wednesday that a
"constellation of factors" has prompted the state to re-evaluate
that timeline as to when bars can safely reopen. He said that other states,
including Massachusetts and Vermont, are doing the same thing.
Thursday, June 18 | The
Bottom Line Podcast
Commissioner Pender Makin of the Maine Department of Education
Commissioner Pender Makin of
the Maine Department of Education was this week's special guest on The Bottom
Line podcast. She joined The Bottom Line co-hosts Dana Connors of
the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and John Williams of Williams
Broadcasting to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the delivery of
education in Maine and the department's recently-released draft "Return to
Classroom Instruction" plan.
To listen to the archived recordings, please visit The Bottom Line page on the Maine
State Chamber's website. In addition, The Bottom Line
podcast can be heard on iTunes, iHeart Radio,
Soundcloud, Stitcher Radio, Spotify and radio.com.
Maine DOL Updates Claims for Unemployment Compensation for
the Week Ending June 13, Cancels Thousands of Suspected Fraudulent Claims
View the Maine Department of Labor's Briefing to the Maine Legislature by Commissioner Laura Fortman
and Deputy Commissioner Kimberly Smith on Thursday, June 18, 2020.
For the week ending
June 13, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 3,000 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and an additional
2,900 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
(PUA). These claims represent about 4,850 individuals filing an initial
claim. About 66,700 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed
last week for state unemployment. In addition, about 23,800 weekly certifications
were filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every
week in order to continue to receive unemployment
benefits. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.
Between March 15
and June 13, the Maine Department of Labor has seen nearly 159,000 initial
claims for the state unemployment program and almost 70,000 initial claims
for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been about
1.3 million weekly certifications filed, and the Department has paid out more
than $807 million in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Maine Department of Labor is continuing to work with
its state and federal law enforcement partners to investigate criminal unemployment imposter fraud. During the week
ending June 13, the Maine Department of Labor cancelled about 3,500 initial
claims and 8,400 weekly certifications suspected of being fraudulent. To
date, the Department has received over 21,400 reports of unemployment
imposter fraud, some of which are duplicates if both the employee and
employer reported the fraud. The extent of potential unemployment imposter
fraud remains under investigation. The Department announced last week that
some claims were flagged for potential fraud, and that those claimants
would need to submit ID verification documents to the department, to be
reviewed by law enforcement officers.
To date, the department has received close to 13,000 emails
with supporting documentation to prove an individual's identity. Many are
duplicates from claimants sending in verification multiple times. The
Department requests that anyone trying to resolve a claim only submit their
documentation once, as multiple submissions could cause further delays. To
date, almost 7,300 claims have been verified and reinstated. By the end of
the week, the Department expects to complete the verification of emails sent
in so far, thanks to the partnership with the Department of Corrections. Moving forward, there will need to be continued
maintenance as new potentially fraudulent claims are identified and
documentation will need to be verified.
The Department and its
partners are vigorously pursuing cases of unemployment imposter fraud. The
investigation is ongoing, and new incidences of potential fraud are
identified every day. The Department encourages anyone who believes that
someone else has used their or their employees personal information to file a
fraudulent unemployment application to notify the Department immediately using
Senators Collins, King Announce $1.4 Million to Combat
Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Maine
U.S. Senators Susan
Collins and Angus King announced earlier this week that the Maine State
Department of Health and Human Services has been awarded a total of
$1,477,750 to support mental health and substance abuse programs throughout the
state. This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services' (HHS) Center for Mental Health Services
This investment will support accessible mental
health programs across Maine, improve outreach and case management programs,
and ensure that scientifically-established findings and practice-based
knowledge are applied in preventing and treating mental health and substance
abuse disorders. Administered by HHS�s Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration (SAMHSA), this funding aims to prevent and treat
mental health disorders.
Collins, King Join Bipartisan Group in Calling for
Permanent Expansion of Telehealth Following COVID-19 Pandemic
Telehealth Use Among Medicare
Beneficiaries Up More Than 11,000 Percent In Just Over A Month
Earlier this week, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus
King joined a bipartisan group of 30 Senators in calling for the expansion of access to telehealth services during the COVID-19
pandemic to be made permanent. Cosponsored by Senators Collins and King,
provisions of the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective
Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act were included in COVID-19
relief legislation. These provisions, which expand coverage of telehealth
services for Medicare beneficiaries, are set to expire following the pandemic.
In their letter to Senator Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY),
the Senators highlight the growing use and benefits of telehealth during the
ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as patients seek to avoid traveling to
hospitals and other providers and instead receive care at home. New data
shows that the number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services
increased by 11,718 percent in just a month and a half during the pandemic.
Register Today for Next Week's Webinar!
An Employer's Guide
Tuesday, June 23 | 11:00 a.m. to Noon
employers have been faced with many challenging issues from the COVID public
health emergency. In this webinar, we now turn our focus to the
return-to-work phase, which raises many employment-related concerns, such as
properly preparing the workplace for the new reality under OSHA and CDC
recommendations, determining how employee recalls will work, ongoing
unemployment, accommodation claims and disability related issues, potential
other leave application, and similar topics. This session will navigate these
and other related issues and provide an opportunity for questions. Hosted by
the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, our presenter for this webinar is
Anne-Marie Storey, partner at Rudman Winchell.
WEBINAR SERIES SPONSORS:
Savings Bank, Central Maine Power Company, and
webinars will be forthcoming, and sponsorship opportunities are available. Registration or general
questions can be directed to Angela Arno, director of programs and events for
the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, by emailing email@example.com or calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 104.
WorkShare Program as an Alternative to Layoffs Topic of Tuesday
THANK YOU TO OUR
Maine Power Company
Department of Economic and Community Development
On Tuesday, June 16, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce hosted a free webinar with Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman and
Deputy Commissioner Kim Smith on WorkShare. WorkShare is a program that
allows employers to retain employees during slowdowns in lieu of layoffs by
temporarily reducing work hours by 10% to 50%. To help offset the loss of
income, affected workers can collect a partial, or modified, unemployment benefit.
Fortman and Smith outlined WorkShare eligibility requirements for employers
and employees, the benefits of WorkShare, how employers can set up a WorkShare program, and more.
"It is important that Maine employers and workers are aware of the benefits of WorkShare during a temporary slowdown like we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman. "For employers, taking advantage of WorkShare can help them keep trained workers instead of having to institute layoffs, furloughs, or let employees go entirely. For employees, it can help them stay connected to their jobs and maintain their skills, while offsetting the loss of income with a partial unemployment benefit."
"There are several benefits to WorkShare and the Maine State Chamber thanks the Department of Labor for sharing the ins and outs of the program on Tuesday," said Peter Gore, executive vice president at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. "During this unprecedented pandemic, many Maine employers are navigating entirely new territory on many fronts, including how to stay connected to their workforce. The WorkShare program can be very helpful in achieving this."
It is important to note that employee unemployment benefits
under WorkShare are not charged to the employer at
this time due to COVID-19 emergency legislation passed in mid-March that is
in effect until one month after the end of the Governor's declared civil
If you missed the live event, the webinar recording and
slideshow presentation can be viewed here. Interested employers are encouraged to call WorkShare's contact line at (207) 623-6783. Helpful
information to have before calling includes the number of employees who would
participate and the proposed percent reduction in work hours.
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