Help for Maine's businesses

While the uncertainty of all of this creates much anxiety, we also know that as Americans, and as Mainers, we will come out stronger on the other side. In the meantime, things are changing daily, and more resources and information are becoming available. We wanted to share those with you.

Maine CDC Updates:
You can access the most recent information about the corona virus in Maine at the state CDC web site.

SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loans:
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved Governor Janet Mills’ request to provide disaster assistance to Maine small businesses. Application deadline is December 16, 2020. FMI:  - 1-800-659-2955 - . Mail applications to: US SBA, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.  Your financial institution should be your first phone call, as they can best assist you.

Assistance from FAME:
Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature developed an omnibus package creating a consumer loan guarantee program through the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine. MBTA staff attended a conference call organized by Maine Bankers Association and the Maine Credit Union League on Thursday, with a FAME representative providing more information on their offerings. FAME is in the process of updating its website with this information at . Applications can be found on the FAME website. 

Unemployment Insurance:
State legislation was passed to make Maine’s Unemployment Insurance system more flexible for both employees and employers. For employees: the usual one week waiting period for eligibility will be waived in the event of a Covid-19 related layoff. For employers: Layoffs associated with COVID-19 will not count against an employer’s experience rating for UI tax purposes.  Click here for more information.

Federal Assistance Coming:
At the federal level, Congress and the Trump administration are taking actions to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our national economy. Rescue proposals being discussed are in the $1 trillion to over $2 trillion range. Among federal legislation being considered is Sen. Susan Collins’ “Keeping Workers Paid and Employed Act,” which would provide cash-flow assistance quickly to employers. This cash-flow assistance could be as much as the employer needs to stay in operation without lay-offs. Funds must be used to pay employees.

As always, our thoughts are with you and your families during this difficult time. We will work on keeping you updated on resources to help us all meet the challenges that lay ahead.
Some bright spots for Maine
On the last day of the abbreviated legislative session, the Maine Legislature quickly passed Governor Mills' transportation bond , which will go to voters in June instead of November. This will enable MaineDOT to fast-track some projects if they are authorized to do so. The bond that citizens will vote on includes $90 million for highways and bridges and $15 million for transit and other non-highway modes. The bond also includes $15 million for investments in high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.
Another bright spot is that the MaineDOT and Maine Turnpike Authority have no plans to shutter projects at this time, and realize that it is even more critically important to move projects forward since other sectors of the economy may be devastated by the pandemic. 

We also know that MaineDOT is working hard to get projects out to bid on schedule and are drafting a Special Provision to make clear that any documented project delays due to COVID-19 workforce or supply chain issues will be considered “excusable delays” when considering contract completion dates. MaineDOT plans to share a draft with the industry soon.

Below is a letter from Commissioner Van Note. You may also read and download well as MaineDOT's updated Construction Advertisement Schedule from 3-20-2020 here .

Please stay well and keep in touch.

Maria R. Fuentes
MBTA Executive Director
A Message from Commissioner about COVID-19
At MaineDOT, our top priority is always safety. Not only does that mean the safety of our workers, but it also means the safety of the traveling public. The current challenges do not change that. Road crews still need to help first responders during traffic incidents and fill potholes as the weather warms. Capital projects still need to be designed, put out to bid, and constructed.

The dedicated men and women of MaineDOT are still working – some can do so remotely while others cannot. We are following the advice of medical professionals when it comes to social distancing and other efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. We have updated our Continuity of Operations Plan, made some changes to the way we receive and open construction bids, and temporarily limited some public access to our facilities.

These are challenging times, but overcoming challenges is what we do. You can count on MaineDOT to continue working to responsibly provide a safe and reliable transportation system in Maine.

Please contact your congressional leaders
Let Congress know transportation 
is vital to the nation’s recovery
Congress will be meeting again today to hammer out an economic relief package that has positive potential for states’ and the nation’s transportation networks severely impacted by the corona virus outbreak. The MBTA staff and board of directors urges you to contact Maine’s Congressional delegation and urge them to support a strong and comprehensive economic stimulus that includes relief for transportation, as well as small businesses, individuals and families. 

The chief message we would like to send is that maintaining our state and nation’s transportation networks – roads, bridges, transit, rail, marine and air – and supporting the nation’s small employers will be essential to our ability to recover from this crisis. 

FYI, here is the ARTBA analysis of the most recent version of the Senate bill, which contains significant relief for small business, public transit and aviation:

  • $10 billion to be distributed through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to support airports that have experienced a precipitous decrease in passenger travel since the COVID-19 outbreak. The funding includes $2 billion, with 100 percent federal share, for traditional AIP capital investment construction projects and $100 million in aid for general aviation airports.

  • Budgetary provision that would deem all future expenditures from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) as “off-budget” or “mandatory” spending. This would make it easier to spend down the $9 billion surplus of the HMTF and ensure future revenues are invested in port, harbor and waterway infrastructure projects in a timely manner. 

  • Over $21 billion distributed for hard hit public transit programs, including $16 billion for urbanized area public transit formula grants and $4 billion for rural areas mass transit formula grants. This provision also includes $492 million for the “Northeast Corridor” Amtrak network and $526 million for the national Amtrak network.

Other provisions of interest to our members:

  • $349 billion to help businesses with less than 500 employees avert layoffs and meet payroll obligations.

  • $58 billion in loans and loan guarantees for the airline and air freight industry.

  • Suspension of aviation fuel and ticket taxes through the end of 2020.

  • Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes from date of enactment of the bill through the end of 2020.

  • Half of what’s owed would be paid by the end of 2021 and the remaining by the end of 2022.

  • Changes to the treatment of net operating losses and various other tax changes aimed at improving cash flow and liquidity amidst the pandemic.

  • Direct payments made to individuals and families in the form of tax rebate checks.

  • Other assistance for various industries, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The MBTA staff and board of directors continues to follow this situation and will update our membership as information becomes available. 

U.S. Senator Susan Collins
Phone 202-224-2523
Fax 202-224-2693

U.S. Senator Angus King
Phone 800-432-1599 | 202-224-5344         
Fax 202-224-1946      

U.S. Representative Jared Golden
Phone 202-225-6306
Fax 202-225-2943

U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree
Phone 202-225-6116                 
Fax 202-225-5590
Thanks for acting on this and letting your voice be heard. Together we can work to help Maine and our nation meet the challenge of this crisis.