Edition for Thursday, July 30, 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!
Senators Collins, Romney, McSally Introduce Extension to
Stop Disruption of Unemployment Benefits
federal unemployment insurance benefits expiring this week amid negotiations
on COVID-19 relief, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT),
and Martha McSally (R-AZ) today introduced legislation that
would prevent Americans from experiencing a sudden lapse in their
supplemental benefits. The CARES Act authorized an additional $600 per week
in federal unemployment payments, on top of state unemployment benefits. Today's
legislation would incentivize states to improve outdated unemployment
insurance programs to better handle wage replacement. It would also ensure
unemployed workers receiving supplemental federal benefits will maintain an
average of $400 per week for the next three months as those payments are
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
Extension Act of 2020 would stop the impending unemployment
insurance benefit disruption by allowing states to choose one of two options
for UI - immediate 80 percent wage replacement or a declining amount of $500
per week in August, $400 per week in September, or $300 per week in October -
and providing an additional $2 billion for states to update their UI systems
to better handle targeted wage replacement.
BSOOB Transit Joins Maine State Chamber's "This is ME
Counting on YOU" Public Awareness Campaign in Saco
Campaign Encourages Mainers
and Visitors to Do Their Part to Stop the Spread of COVID-19
Maine State Chamber of Commerce was at the Saco Transportation Center on
Friday, July 24 as part of the Maine State Chamber's "This is ME Counting on
YOU" public awareness campaign encouraging Mainers and visitors to
our state to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Maine State
Chamber President Dana Connors and Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit's
Craig Pendleton were on hand to talk about how following recommended health and safety guidelines, such
as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, will help keep people
safe, and ensure Maine's economy reopens and recovers safely and
businesses and organizations like BSOOB Transit take very seriously their
role in keeping their employees and patrons safe and preventing the spread or
a resurgence of COVID-19," said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine
State Chamber of Commerce. "We hope 'This is ME Counting on YOU' serves as a
reminder that every one of us also has an important role to play in defeating
COVID-19. We are all in this together and are counting on each other to act
safely and responsibly. That is the best way we can support one another, our
communities, and Maine businesses and employers so our economy can get back
"As an organization that interfaces with the public every day, we are committed to making sure our transportation centers, buses and trolleys are safe for our riders and employees," said Craig Pendleton, Director of External Affairs at Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit. "We have implemented many more safety measures due to the challenges COVID-19 has presented. We appreciate the support of the Maine State Chamber's 'This is ME Counting on YOU' campaign to help us keep our area residents and visitors safe by providing important reminders of responsible health practices in our public spaces."
ME Counting on YOU" provides free resources on its website,
www.MeCountingOnYou.org, including floor stickers and printable posters for
businesses and organizations to place in their establishments and work places
reminding people to practice social distancing, wear masks, and more. The
campaign's PSA is airing on Maine Public and cable television stations across
Maine. The initiative is also on Facebook with the hashtag #MECountingOnYou.
Maine State Chamber is working with its members, local and regional chambers
of commerce, and other organizations throughout Maine to spread the "This is
ME Counting on YOU" message. For more information about "This ME Counting on
YOU," please visit www.MeCountingOnYou.org. For
more information about BSOOB Transit, please visit www.BSOOBTransit.org.
Governor Mills Issues Statement on Revenue Forecasting Committee
On July 29, the Revenue
Forecasting Committee (RFC) projected that State General Fund revenues
will decrease by $524 million in Fiscal Year 2021, $434 million in Fiscal
Year 2022, and $449 in Fiscal Year 2023 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Mills issued a statement
The Governor's instruction to
all departments of state government to apply an emergency-basis scrutiny to
spending and hiring remains in place, including freezing access to all
unencumbered balances for Fiscal Year 2020. The Budget Stabilization Fund
stands at $258 million, which is an increase of more than $50 million since
the Governor took office.
The Administration has made no decision about another supplemental budget at this point. The Governor will review revenue reports, examine revenue forecasts, evaluate potential expenditure reduction options, monitor federal efforts to provide additional aid and flexibility to state governments and will confer with legislative leaders about next steps.
Governor Mills continues to
urge Congress to provide additional direct support to states as well as
flexibility with funding already authorized in order to continue to protect
the public health and safety and to spearhead an economic recovery. Over the
past several months, Governor Mill has joined other Governors through the
National Governors Association in repeatedly calling on Congress to provide
robust and flexible federal relief to offset expected revenue reductions that
all states are seeing. Earlier today, Republican Maryland Governor Larry
Hogan and Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Chair and Vice Chair of
the NGA, respectively, issued
a statement regarding the need for federal aid to states.
Announces Further Investment to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in
The Mills Administration
announced today an investment of $1 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund
to significantly and quickly expand services to help reduce
the disproportionately large racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 in
Maine. This funding through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services
(DHHS) will expand education, prevention, and eligibility for services
currently supported by the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Generally, it will
include individuals referred to DHHS by communities at elevated risk of
COVID-19. It will support temporary wrap-around services such as food as well
as referrals to existing child care, health care, and income support
programs. This funding will be provided directly to community-based
organizations that are run and led by the communities they serve. The
Department will issue an application for the "2020 COVID Health Equity
Improvement Initiative" next week, after additional consultation with
community-based organizations on its design.
The racial and ethnic
disparities related to COVID-19 in Maine are profound, with the rate of cases
among minority populations in Maine indicating a higher, crisis-level
inequality in Maine communities. For example, Black and African American
Mainers represent about 1.4 percent of the total population in Maine, but
over 22 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Maine where race is known. Hispanic
or Latinx Mainers represent about 1.7 percent of the population in Maine, but
3.9 percent of cases where the ethnicity is known. To date, the Department
has undertaken a number of actions
to address disparities in COVID-19. More work by the Department is needed
to address COVID disparities as well as the underlying causes of inequity
that pre-date COVID-19.
Adjusts Outdoor Gathering Limit
Yesterday afternoon, the Mills
Administration announced an
adjustment to the limit on large gatherings for outdoor activities from 50
to 100 people, effective August 1, 2020. Under the increase, however, no
more than 5 people are allowed per 1,000 square feet in order to maintain
appropriate physical distancing. The gathering limit for indoor activities
remains unchanged at 50 people. The announcement
follows the release of, but does not impact, an updated COVID-19
Prevention Checklist last Friday by the Department of Economic and
Community Development for seated outdoor spectator events, such as
professional sports or concerts. The updated checklist allows for up to four
zones of 50 people in each zone. Zones must be separated with physical
barriers to prevent intermingling between zones, have separate entrances and
exits, bathrooms, and concessions.
Maine Receives $17 Million
in CARES Funding to Pilot Remote Learning Models
The federal grant funding
announced this week as part of the CARES Act will go to developing and
implementing new remote learning models.
Today, the Portland Press Herald reported that
Maine has received an additional $17 million in federal coronavirus relief
aid to be used to design
and pilot new models of remote learning. The $16.9 million award, announced
this week by the U.S. Department of Education, is made possible through a
Rethink K-12 Education Models grant competition launched by the department in
April and funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security,
or CARES, Act. Maine is one of 11 states to receive the grant
funding and will be using it for professional development, a pilot
program and support for schools around remote learning models.
New Jobless Claims in Maine Fall Again, But Tens of
Thousands Still Rely on Aid
than 87,000 continuing claims for assistance were filed last week, as
supplemental benefits to support the economy and keep people out of poverty
The Portland Press Herald reported today
that more than 2,000 Mainers filed new claims for jobless assistance last
week as additional federal benefits expire. The $600 had been helping
out-of-work people for months. About 2,100 people filed initial unemployment
claims last week, the lowest weekly number since tens of thousands were
thrown out of work because of the pandemic five months ago.
new claims are low, the number of people continuing to receive weekly benefits
remains at a historic high. More than 87,000 weekly certifications for state
and federal unemployment benefits were filed last week, slightly more than
the week prior. The thousands of people who filed new benefits this week are
entering a system without an extra $600 per week benefit that has been
available since April. That money has been credited with keeping people out
of poverty during the pandemic and associated economic crisis, but ends on
Friday. In Maine, last week was the final period for payments that included
the added $600.
now, there is no replacement for the supplemental assistance. The
Democrat-led House passed the HEROES Act in May that included an extra $600
though the beginning of next year. Senate Republicans and the White House
this week proposed a relief plan that would cut the payments to $200 a week
until states could implement a payment system that would replace 70 percent
of a worker's previous income. The Maine Department of Labor has said setting
up a system that requires individual income records could take months.
Important Updates from the
Maine Department of Labor
Claims for Unemployment Compensation, Week Ending July 25: For
the week ending July 25, the Maine Department of Labor recorded
about 2,000 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and
600 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
These claims represent about 2,100 individuals filing an initial claim. About
61,200 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for
state unemployment. In addition, about 26,000 weekly certifications were
filed under PUA. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week
in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. Between March 15 and
July 25, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.24 billion in
federal and state unemployment benefits. By comparison, the Department paid
out less than $74 million in unemployment benefits in all of 2019. The
Department has handled approximately 176,600 initial claims for the state
unemployment program and 82,500 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment
Assistance (PUA) program. There have been almost 1.87 million weekly
certifications filed. Claims data is preliminary and subject to revision.
Claims data can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html
Fraud Update: The Maine Department of Labor
continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment
imposter fraud. During the week ending July 25, the Department cancelled
about 670 initial claims and 260 weekly certifications that were determined
to be fraudulent. 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 this form.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program: Eligibility
for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, or the
additional weekly $600, ended with benefit payments for the week ending July
25, 2020. This means that most people, depending on when they file their
weekly certification for the week ending July 25, would receive that last
payment during the week of July 26-August 1. This is a federal program, and
the Department is monitoring Congressional action for any possible extensions
or changes to the FPUC program.
PUA Benefits: The Maine Department of Labor
(MDOL) is continuing to update the weekly
benefit payments for people currently enrolled in the federal Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This involves matching current tax
information to individual claims to pay Maine people their full benefit,
retroactive to the date of their PUA eligibility. Launched in Maine in May,
PUA is one of three new federal unemployment programs created in response to
the COVID-19 pandemic. It covers workers previously ineligible for
unemployment, such as the self-employed and gig workers, and is available
through the week ending December 26, 2020. To expedite payments to Mainers
during COVID-19, MDOL approved the minimum state PUA benefit of $172 per week
for all those eligible for PUA, pending the matching of updated tax
information. The PUA minimum benefit amount is federally required to be half
of the state's average weekly benefit. Self-employed individuals whose net
income, or other PUA recipients whose gross wages in 2019 were below $15,224
will continue to receive the minimum benefit of $172 a week, and do not need
to take any action other than continuing to file weekly certifications.
Individuals with higher earnings are eligible for a maximum benefit under the
PUA program of up to $445 or $462 per week, depending on whether their initial
claim was filed before or after June 1.
Work Search and Maine JobLink Workshops: Under
Maine law, all unemployment claimants are required to show that they are
actively seeking work in order to receive benefits. This requirement had been
temporarily waived at the start of the pandemic. Starting with the weekly
certification for the week beginning August 9, all claimants will need to
either provide information on their work search activity, or attest that they
are self-employed or still connected with their employer. Prior to the
requirement being reinstated, the Department will post screenshots of what
the additional weekly certification page will look like on its website and
identify the questions claimants will be required to answer.
All unemployment claimants
required to actively search for work must create an account on the Maine JobLink. JobLink is a free job
search tool, where claimants can upload their resumes and employers can post
their job openings. In anticipation of this requirement, MDOL is holding
workshops twice a week, at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These
workshops walk participants through how to create and use a JobLink account. Those
who are still connected to an employer are not required to actively search
for other work until after September 5. However, they must still be able and
available to work for that employer if recalled. If an employer has offered
work to an employee and that employee refused the work, the
employer should notify the Department. A fact-finding would be held to
determine if there was good cause for the refusal of work. If no good cause
is determined, then the claimant would no longer be eligible for unemployment
Store Owners: Sell Maine200 Products on Site
owners and vendors can purchase Maine200
products in bulk from Maine200's merchandiser, The
Advertising Specialists of Maine, for resale to the public in your
store/physical location. Maine200 promotional materials are available for
download and printing to make your customers aware that you are selling
official Maine200 merchandise. Retail sites that order Maine200 items
wholesale from TASOM for resale will receive a Maine200 "Official Retailer"
window decal with their order. Others who wish to have their store recognized
as an official retailer should email info@Maine200.org for a
window decal. For more information on products and wholesale rates, please
contact Stefani Berkey by calling (207) 990-6022 or by emailing Maine200Wholesale@TASOM.com.
Use the Maine State Chamber's Blog and Daily
Impact to Tell Your Story!
Numerous Maine companies are stepping up or
pivoting nimbly, as Maine people resourcefully address the challenges of this
pandemic. Share your perspective and experience with us and with the rest of
the business community. How are you facing and overcoming the challenges
posed by this pandemic? What are you and your employees doing in this
dramatically different economy? Tell us about the innovations your company or
employees are making or ways you have adapted your company to meet your
blog entry should be 300 to 500 words. Join
us in creating a written history of the business community's resilience and
innovation during this extraordinary time. Please submit your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. For
more information or questions, please contact Mark Ellis by emailing email@example.com or
by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 109.
Next week, Northern Light
Health's Zoom Safe Return to Business Conference Hosts a Conversation with
Dr. Nirav Shah
Join Northern Light Health next
week for a COVID-19 conversation with Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine
CDC. Topics will include data benchmarks; steps to take as a family; what's
new with testing/vaccine potential; and, facts versus fiction. Be sure to register
so you don't miss out. Also, if you've missed any of Northern Light Health's
Return to Business Conferences, you can access materials online here.
Thursday, August 13 | The Bottom Line Podcast
with Maine Community
College System President, David Daigler
president of the Maine Community College System (MCCS), will be our special guest on The Bottom Line podcast. He will join The Bottom Line co-hosts Dana Connors of the Maine State
Chamber of Commerce and John Williams
of Williams Broadcasting to discuss MCCS' plans for providing safe, in-person
training on campus for students that need hands-on instruction and robust
remote learning for other students. In both scenarios, Maine's community
colleges are making sure students are getting critical training for the state's workforce needs.
please visit Williams
Broadcasting and scroll
down to "Listen Online" at the bottom of the homepage. 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.
Providing Books to Maine
Maine educators were recently surveyed about critical needs of their students. Books were highlighted as a top priority for students of all ages. Supporting reading is essential for students to continue to thrive in schools. Making certain that our students, particularly our youngest readers, have easy access to books during the end of the school year and throughout the summer is crucial for preventing summer slide.
Even with yeoman-like efforts
by Maine teachers and a hands-on approach from the Maine Department of
Education to ensure all Maine students have been able to continue learning
remotely during the pandemic, we know that learning over these past few
months has inevitably been disrupted. In addition to the school year
disruption, student achievement often widens during the summer, an outcome
referred to as summer slide. Summer slide accounts for as much as 85 percent
of the reading achievement gap between lower income students and their
middle- and upper-income peers. Providing students with appropriate books
will help address this challenge. Not only does summer reading enable
students to continue practicing foundational skills, but it opens the world
to students through stories and knowledge building around topics of
interest. We need your help to ensure
students across our 16 counties have access to books, an essential commodity.
Here are a few ways you can
support Maine students:
1 2020 Maine Books Challenge: Educate Maine is leading this
initiative to provide students with books while supporting local bookstores.
You can purchase an online or physical gift card at one of Maine's
independent bookstores. Every $10 donation provides a book for a Maine student.
Every donation will be matched by the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein up to $5,000.
Teachers across Maine will help coordinate book distribution to students. If
interested in supporting this effort, please email Katherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Scholastic Books: This company has offered significant discounts
to help get books to Maine students. For example, a $1,000 donation can
support 300 books for 100 students. A $5,000 donation can support 1,500 books
for 500 students. If interested in supporting this effort, please email Megan
Diver at email@example.com.
3 Community Book Donations: Gently used books are also needed
across Maine. We are seeking community drop off spots at local employers
throughout the 16 counties. If your business is interested in becoming a
location for books to be collected, please email Megan Diver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books will be distributed to
students directly through their schools and at local meal sites throughout
the summer. Additional information about summer literacy initiatives can be
Thank you for supporting Maine students.
Thank you for
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