Democratic delegation from Southern Mid-Coast joins bipartisan effort to support Mainers during coronavirus pandemic

Posted: March 17, 2020 | Senator Carson, Senator Vitelli

The Legislative delegation from Southern Mid-Coast voted in favor of a number of bills Tuesday that will help support Maine people and businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19. These bills received broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House.

Sens. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell, released the following statement:

“An extraordinary public health emergency requires a proportionate response – and that’s what these new laws are. The laws passed today touch everything from supporting small businesses, to bolstering our public health nursing infrastructure, to feeding Maine children, and ensuring families won’t lose power or water in these tough times. We’ll continue working to meet this challenge head-on.”

Reps. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, Sean Paulhus, D-Bath, Denise Tepler, D-Topsham, and Ralph Tucker, D-Brunswick, released the following statement:

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis that is having major effects on families and on communities like ours that are driven by a small business economy. Today we took steps to address many of the hardships our friends and families are facing as businesses adjust their operations and as our neighbors stay home to limit the spread of COVID-19. The measures we passed today will support Mainers, and we promise to keep pushing for any actions that will help us get through this pandemic.”

Measures passed Tuesday include provisions to:

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

In addition, Gov. Janet Mills has declared an insurance emergency and a state of civil emergency to help state agencies respond to the public health crisis quickly and effectively. 

The insurance emergency ensures that all health insurance plans will cover 100% of the cost of testing for COVID-19, with absolutely no cost sharing to the consumer. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has released guidelines to help Mainers without insurance get tested at low or no cost. Those guidelines can be found here

The state of civil emergency, declared Sunday, March 15, makes the following recommendations:

  • Ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical.
  • Postponing all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state.
  • Restricting visitors and all non-essential health care personnel to long-term care facilities except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end of life.
  • Postponing all events with 50 or more people, and all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors. Shortly after her announcement, the national CDC made the same recommendation for the next 8 weeks.

The Governor’s recommendations are in effect until further notice. 

At the end of Tuesday, the Maine Legislature adjourned sine die, until further notice. To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the State House will be closed to the public until March 30.