Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday signed an executive order protecting renters from immediate eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order applies to both residential and commercial tenants. It is designed, Mills, said to help keep people home and healthy during the pandemic.

It does not apply to those renters who engage in dangerous or unlawful conduct for the duration of the state of emergency. The order also increases the penalties for landlords who may try to unlawfully evict tenants.

The executive order also includes a new rental assistance relief program for Mainers who cannot pay their rent due to COVID-19. The $5 million COVID-19 Rent Relief Program will allow households -- dependent on income and ability to pay -- to receive a one-time, up to $500 payment in rental assistance to be paid directly to their landlord.

As of Thursday, April 16, there were 796 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Maine, according to official state statistics. That's 26 more positive tests from the previous day.

There have been 27 deaths, mostly among the elderly.

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