March 19, 2020
Dear Friend,

Since my last communication about the COVID-19 situation in Maine, so much has changed. I’m sure you, like me, have been watching the news with growing concern. In response, we have all been adapting to protect public health, from temporarily closing schools and businesses to moving to remote work, practicing social distancing and more. These steps leave us worried about our finances and our families. I want you to know that all the actions you are taking to prioritize the health of our community are appreciated, and that your government is taking action to support you through this challenging time.

The Presiding Officers of the Legislature made the decision this week to end our session early to keep staff, constituents and our community safe and adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. This decision was a difficult one, but the right one. 

Before we adjourned, we passed a supplemental budget, a bond package and an omnibus bill that included a number of policies that will help us respond to COVID-19. I have detailed our COVID-19 response legislation below and have included highlights from the budget. I promise to provide a more in-depth look at the budget and all the other work we accomplished this session in the coming weeks and months. 

It is our intention that we will be able to return to Augusta and pick up the bills we were not able to finish.
Sincerely,
Jess Fay
Serving District 66
207-415-4218
COVID-19 RESPONSE LEGISLATION 

This week,  Gov. Mills and the Legislature worked together  to pass a package of emergency measures to respond to COVID-19. That bill includes provisions to:

  • Temporarily expand unemployment insurance benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. Learn about your eligibility and how to apply at this link.
  • Empower the state Department of Education to waive certain school-day requirements and continue getting meals to kids who need them.
  • Allow remote participation in municipal meetings. Town officials can get more information here.
  • Establish a consumer loan guarantee program to help eligible Mainers access low- or no-interest loans. More information is available on the FAME website.
  • Address the potential need to make changes to the way the June 2020 elections are carried out.
  • Authorize the Governor to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service.

We also passed emergency legislation that grants Governor Mills access to at least $11 million in State funding to respond to COVID-19.
  
BUDGET AND BOND

Before adjourning, we passed a  $73 million supplemental budget  that prioritizes initiatives related to COVID-19, including a $1 million funding infusion for the Maine CDC, which will be used to supplement federal funds to expand capacity at the State laboratory and to hire and retain critical health care personnel including epidemiologists and public health nurses to respond to the pandemic. 

The budget also includes $15 million for rate increases to support direct health care providers who are caring for Maine seniors, people with disabilities and children with behavioral health needs, $38 million for pre-K-12 education raising the State’s contribution by one percent from 50.78 to 51.78 percent, another step towards the 55 percent in state law, and $10 million to repair the State’s roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. 

I am proud to share that we also put an additional $17.4 million in the so-called “Rainy Day Fund,” so it will be available for future COVID-19-related expenses, shifts in the economy or any other crises our state may face. That increases the fund to roughly $257 million.

Finally, we also passed a bond in the amount of $105M for transportation needs and $15M for broadband that will be sent to voters in June.

UPDATES ON THE GOVERNOR’S ACTIONS

This week, Gov. Mills:

  • Obtained for Maine’s small businesses greater access to loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Maine small businesses can now access and apply for Economic Impact Disaster Loans at this link.  
  • Signed a proclamation of civil emergency. The proclamation brings the State of Maine to highest alert and allows Gov. Mills to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. It also eases Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.
  • Called for the classroom instruction to end as soon as possible.
  • Prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Closed dine-in facilities at restaurants and bars statewide.

A full list of Gov. Mills’ actions and orders so far can be found  at this link .

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS

The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are still:

  • Social Distancing: I urge you to follow the current guidance to avoid group gatherings of more than 10 people, limit physical contact such as handshakes and, if you’re an employer and haven’t already, consider instituting work from home or paid time off options to the fullest extent possible.
  • Avoid Travel: Postpone any unnecessary out-of-state travel.
  • Keep Healthy: Practice the same preventive measures you would to prevent catching a cold - wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, stay home if you are sick.
  • Call Your Doctor: If you are exhibiting any cold or flu symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, call your medical provider.

COVID-19 INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES

We are also offering a variety of resources to make sure you are aware of any changes in the coronavirus status or in the state’s response, including:

  • 211 Maine: Get answers at any time by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.
  • Maine CDC Coronavirus Website: Sign up for email updates, learn more about the coronavirus and get the latest status in Maine at www.maine.gov/dhhs/coronavirus. 
  • U.S. CDC Coronavirus Website: Get nationwide and global updates and learn more about the coronavirus at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.

REMOTE WORK/GET IN TOUCH

In addition to adjourning session and sending legislators home, this week our State House staff began working remotely. While working from home, we are still entirely available to you. I can be reached at my email address. You can also contact my legislative aide by calling 207-287-1430. 
Municipal Contact Information

Town of Casco - Cascomaine.org - 207-627-4515

Town of Raymond - Raymondmaine.org - 207-655-4742

Town of Poland - Polandtownoffice.org - 207-998-4601