Governor Janet Mills will sign into law today a pair of bills that aim to offer relief to people whose lives and employment have been disrupted by COVID-19.

With people out of work because of business shutdowns and quarantines, small business owners being forced to close their doors, and other changes that have altered the landscape of Maine life, Mills and the Legislature have rushed emergency measures through the proper channels.

One bill grants Governor Mills access to at least $11 million in state funding to respond to COVID-19, while another omnibus emergency bill expands authorities of state and local offices to allow them greater flexibility to respond to the virus and offer support to Mainers. The governor will sign the bills today.

Some of the changes include:

  • Establishing a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low-or-no interest loans for eligible people in Maine;
  • Temporarily expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19;
  • Increasing the Department of Education's ability to waive certain school-day requirements and to continue school lunch programs for all eligible children;
  • Authorizing Governor Mills to adjust state, county, and municipal government deadlines and to permit all public entities to meet by remote participation;
  • Expanding the ability of Maine Emergency Medical Services' Board and staff to take actions more promptly;
  • Authorizing Governor Mills to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service;
  • Authorizing the governor to determine and direct the manner of the June 2020 primary, if necessary;
  • Delaying the effective date of the single-use plastic bag ban to January 15, 2021.

Governor Mills said, in a media release, "Protecting the health and well-being of Maine people is a responsibility at the core of State government, and I am grateful to lawmakers for uniting in support of these measures so we can implement them swiftly."

"There's no doubt that this pandemic has sent shock-waves throughout the state," Senate President Troy Jackson said in the media release, "but at the same time, Maine people, organizations, businesses, and state agencies have all stepped up to support one another. This is not only how we are going to get through this crisis as a state, but what being a Mainer is all about."