Sen. Breen and the Legislature's budget committee propose relief for restaurants and hungry Mainers
AUGUSTA – During the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) meeting today, Senate Chair Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and her colleagues on the committee proposed that the Mills’ Administration partner with community groups and restaurants in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties to move perishable food to Maine’s food insecurity programs. Federal CARES Act funding could be used to cover the costs of these efforts. The Committee met to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 Economic Shock and discuss plans for the $1.25 billion in federal funding Maine received through the CARES Act. Sen. Breen’s proposal comes after last-minute changes to Gov. Mills’ plan to reopen the state, which set many restaurants in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin Counties back financially. Many of these restaurants had already rehired staff, purchased food and invested in supplies to meet new health and safety guidelines in an effort to resume dining service on June 1.
Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa confirmed that the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, remains at an all-time high of $257 million. Commissioner Figueroa also added that both the General Fund and Highway Fund will be in balance for Fiscal Year 2020, and that while we don’t have enough data to know what the ultimate impact will be for Fiscal Year 2021, the Legislature put the state in a good position when it left $193 million in the General Fund and added $17.5 million to the Rainy Day Fund before adjourning.
Following the committee meeting, Sen. Breen released the statement below:
“With so many Maine businesses and their employees reeling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important for Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and economic experts to discuss how we can use federal funds to inject some much-needed relief into our communities and small businesses. Today’s meeting was the first opportunity to collaborate on ideas, but we’ll have many more in the coming weeks. By working with restaurants who had planned on resuming dining room services on Monday to fill gaps in our hunger programs, we have an opportunity to step up for small businesses and Maine people in their hour of need. And the costs of these efforts are eligible for federal CARES Act reimbursement.
“As direct representatives of the people, the Legislature has a role in determining how we spend vital federal funds. In the past few months, I’ve heard from local officials, business leaders and people in the communities I represent about the challenges they are up against. I know I’m not alone. It’s critical that these funds be used in a way to get Maine people through this crisis.
“In the coming weeks, we will continue to work with the administration to monitor the state’s financial outlook and determine how we can best address the crisis with the federal stimulus money. While we don’t have all the data we need yet regarding the economic effects of the pandemic are not, the Legislature put the state in a good position to weather the impact when we left $193 million in the General Fund and added $17.5 million to the Rainy Day Fund before we adjourned.”