March 28, 2020

Legislature’s COVID-19 response

By Rep. Mark Bryant

In the last two weeks, we’ve seen confirmed cases of coronavirus rise quickly in Maine, many of them here in Cumberland County. I know that we are all watching the unfolding news of COVID-19 with a mixture of uncertainty and anxiety. Whether it’s worry about public health and safety, concern about childcare and schools or determining how our workplaces may be changing and what effect that has on our economic well being, I want you to know that you are not in this alone.

Governor Mills’ Office and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) have been proactively preparing to respond to the coronavirus since December. We all need to work together to minimize exposure and follow best practices. The Legislature has been working closely with the Governor’s Office and the Maine CDC to respond to this global outbreak.

Last week, my colleagues and I met to end our Legislative Session early as a result of the COVID-19 situation. But before we left Augusta, we passed emergency legislation to help the state effectively and compassionately respond to COVID-19.

We established a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine. We authorized Gov. Mills to determine and direct the manner of the June 2020 elections, giving us all more flexibility in these trying times. We temporarily expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. And we increased the Department of Education’s ability to waive certain school-day requirements and to continue school lunch programs for all eligible children – lots of kids in our community get their meals from school, it’s so important that we make sure our children still have access to adequate nutrition.

The legislation further authorized Gov. Mills to adjust state, county and municipal government deadlines and to permit additional flexibility for municipal and school board budgets. We made it possible for all public entities to meet by remote participation, in keeping with social distancing recommendations. The Maine Emergency Medical Services’ Board and staff were given greater leeway in taking actions quickly and with less red tape so that they can respond effectively as the situation develops. The legislation also authorized Gov. Mills to prohibit terminating residential electric and water service during this emergency. And it delayed the effective date of the single-use plastic bag can to January 15, 2021. 

In addition to the actions taken by the Legislature, early this week Gov. Janet Mills has taken a number of actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. Most notably, she proclaimed a state of civil emergency that brings Maine to highest alert and allows Gov. Mills to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people. It also gives Maine more access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts. At this time, Gov. Mills is also mandating that all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. Dine-in facilities are practicing curbside takeout or delivery, schools have shifted to remote learning and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. While these are certainly big changes for our daily life, they are critical to keeping us healthy.

These are trying times, but I know the residents of Windham are resilient and will overcome. My promise to you is that, across Maine’s government, the health, safety and welfare of Maine people is our top priority. Please don't hesitate to reach out at Mark.Bryant@legislature.maine.gov if there is anything we can do to help.

Rep. Bryant is serving in the Maine House of Representatives, representing part of Windham in House District 24. He is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation and the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government. Mark.Bryant@legislature.maine.gov

March 27, 2020

Coping with COVID-19

By Rep. Jessica Fay

A lot has happened since Maine’s first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 12. People from across the state have sprung into action. We have quickly adapted to protect public health, from temporarily closing schools and businesses to moving to remote work, practicing social distancing and not conducting any business that isn’t essential. I am grateful and proud for the consideration and support we are providing each other, and wanted to provide some additional insight and resources.

Our small businesses are especially vulnerable right now. Our local economy is driven by our small
businesses, so I want to stress some resources available to our local businesses and the folks they employ. The US Small Business Administration is offering Maine more access to Economic Impact Disaster Loans. Businesses can check eligibility and apply online. As part of our efforts to make unemployment insurance benefits more accessible, employers can use a Maine Department of Labor program called Workshare to make sure their employees get partial unemployment benefits if their hours are reduced. Plus, we’ve made more consumer loans available at low-to-no interest with the help of Maine lenders.

Beyond these resources, I have been astounded at the creativity many of our small businesses have shown by shifting to delivering their goods or providing services digitally to avoid closing. I’ve also been touched by community members buying gift cards to local shops and finding other ways to support our business community. We are all in this together, and I’m so grateful for the kindness I’m seeing.

Another group that is at risk is our older residents. We have likely all heard by now that COVID-19 is more easily contracted by seniors, and that the virus takes a larger toll on those individuals. For that reason, I ask all in our community to reach out to the seniors in our lives to offer assistance in running errands and connecting with resources. I am grateful to the many grocery stores that have opened up special senior shopping hours and to the youth in our community making calls to our aging neighbors to provide companionship and keep their social connections from fraying. I am also happy to connect any seniors with additional support.

Our region is heavily dependent on recreational visitors, and I know many of us are worried about how the ongoing COVID-19 situation may affect our tourism industry. In addition to the supports we have already put in place for small businesses and employers, I am pushing for further guidance and policies from the administration to address the specific needs of this sector.

The prime reason for all those visitors is that we are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places I know of.  As we spend more time socially distancing, I want to remind people that this does not mean social isolation, and it certainly doesn’t mean staying inside. I encourage you to be outside, enjoying the beauty of where we live, while still staying six feet apart from those around you. Visit one of Maine’s many trails, take a walk in the woods or go fishing! Until April 30, the state has waived the need to have a recreational fishing license to fish in the inland waters of Maine. Expired registrations for boats, all-terrain vehicles and cars have also been extended until 30 days after this public health crisis ends. We hope these steps will help you get around and get outside.

Finally, if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, the Maine CDC has set up a hotline that is available by calling 211 or 866-811-5695. It can also be reached by texting your zip code to 207-898-211 or emailing info@211maine.org. And of course, please use me as a resource. While the Legislature has adjourned, I and my staff are still here to serve. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me at Jessica.Fay@legislature.maine.gov if there is anything we can do to help.

 Fay is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents parts of Casco, Poland and Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.


Town of Raymond initiates “Phone Tree” to prevent feelings of isolation

By Lorraine Glowczak

Terms such as “social distancing,” “self-quarantine”, and “flattening the curve” have become mainstream vernaculars in our everyday vocabulary since the onset of the COVID-19 virus.

However, whether one is quarantined due to suspected exposure, as a result of being in a high-risk category, or simply remaining at home to help prevent the spread of infection, some may find themselves unprepared for the feelings of loneliness and isolation that may follow. Those who may be hardest hit with the solitude factor are those who live in rural areas and belong to an aging population.

To prevent the possibility of loneliness among the elderly and shut ins in Raymond, the town has
instigated a phone tree initiative to check in during these very unusual times.

“Although social distancing is a necessary response to the coronavirus, it has the added effect of social-isolation,” remarked Raymond Town Manager, Don Willard. “We are very concerned about the elderly in our town – especially those who do not have the ability to get out of the house. We want to be proactive by checking in on our residents who are considered our most vulnerable population.”
The concept of the phone tree was a group effort between Willard, Rep. Jess Fay and Deputy Chief of Emergency Services and Health Officer, Cathy Gosselin.

“As I started to recognize the guidance we were receiving in our legislative sessions regarding steps to take [resulting from COVID-19], it occurred to me through my association with Raymond’s Age Friendly community that there are at-risk folks in town,” stated Rep. Fay. “But I wasn’t sure how we could reach out to these people.”

From there, Rep. Fay contacted Willard and Gosselin, whose office holds the data on individuals identified in the group where concern is greatest. The three officials met to discuss a variety of options and the concept of the phone tree emerged. Gosselin became the administrator of this newly and quickly developed program, forming a list of people who live in Raymond and are over the age of 60.

“Approximately 600 people were identified as being over the age of 60,” stated Gosselin. “We then broke the list of people down into 12 separate lists. We have 12 volunteers helping us to make calls so that is about 50 calls per volunteer.”

So far, the initiative is proving successful and those who are being called upon appreciate the fact that someone is concerned enough to check in on them. “Some people have indicated that they are fine and no longer need us to call but some have asked us to keep in touch on a regular basis,” explained Rep. Fay. “So, we call every three days or so to keep in regular contact, making sure all their needs are met.”

Rep. Fay also said that she gets just as much out of volunteering with this phone tree initiative as she hopes it helps others. “I really enjoy talking with people, listening to their stories and helping them connect to resources they might need. I simply love helping others.”

The Maine Council on Aging is also working diligently on the same issue, making sure the elderly are being assisted in a multitude of ways. They advise making calls to your elderly neighbors and shut ins. Rep. Fay uses their advice when she makes her calls. “Instead of asking, ‘I’m going to the store, do you need anything?’ the Council advises you to ask, ‘I am going to CVS/Hannaford/etc…what can I pick up for you?’ Most people do not want to bother others, so by rephrasing the question slightly, it opens the door to a more authentic answer if they really do need something.”

Gosselin reiterated that most people have appreciated receiving the phone calls. “They enjoy knowing that someone really cares about them.”

Willard agreed, adding, “That’s what living in a small town is all about.”




March 24, 2020

Backpack Program provides help while schools are closed

By Matt Pascarella

We are in uncertain times. And for some families, that might mean they need a little extra help. The Backpack Program, which is available to students who receive free or reduced lunch (when school is in session) is now open to all families who have children in RSU14. Families do not need to be current or past recipients of the Backpack Program; during this time, all families are welcome. Organizers have even been delivering to families who do not have transportation or are quarantined.

This initiative is currently being funded through Backpack Program funds and using that money to purchase food. Program Director Marge Govoni, Chef Ryan Roderick and Director of School Nutrition, Jeanne Reilly have been working hard to make sure these bags are available to those that need them.

The bags ideally feed a family of four and are being supplemented with food left over from when school closed. A bag contains: milk cartons, fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, granola bars, canned fruit and other perishable items.

Families may pick up bags twice a week during this school closure. Police presence and maintenance staff will be on hand. Bags can be picked up at:

Windham Middle School, Auxiliary Gym Lobby – Tuesdays and Fridays 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Raymond Elementary School, Main Entrance – Tuesdays & Fridays 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

In order to practice social distancing, bags are placed in one area of the main entrance, when a family is seen approaching, they can grab the bag with little to no contact made during pickup.

If a family’s income has been impacted by COVID-19, and you would like your child to receive free or reduced school meals, they are encouraged to fill out an application, by logging onto www.myschoolapps.com.  If you prefer a paper copy, the office will be happy to mail you a copy if you contact them.

If you qualify, when school is back in session, your child(ren) will be able to receive school meals every school day.

Any family who is unable to come to a pickup site may contact the school Nutrition Director at jreilly@rsu14.org or call 207-892-1800 extension 2012.  They have district volunteers who can deliver as needed.

“The program has provided much needed relief for families,” Roderick began. “It has helped in ways that may not be so obvious [such as] the comfort and familiarity that a carton of chocolate milk or cup of applesauce can provide goes beyond nutrition. These meals can even help bring a sense of normalcy to this otherwise unprecedented situation. The outpouring of volunteer support from our own district staff and beyond has just validated my belief that we are so fortunate to work and live in a community that cares for one another and treats everybody like family.”

Reilly added that it is their plan to continue providing this twice per week pick up throughout this time of school closure. “It is our goal that no child goes hungry during this time,” she said. “We are planning to apply for several grants and to have a fund-raising campaign in order to continue to fund our effort.”






March 20, 2020

Student of the week: Kylie Gervais


Kylie Gervais, a ten-year-old fourth-grade student at Raymond Elementary School, is The Windham Eagle’s Student of the Week. Gervais’ favorite subjects are science and social studies, and she enjoys archery, softball and horseback riding in her spare time.

“Kylie comes to class everyday ready to learn,” stated her teacher, Mrs. Brackett. “She is very bright and a hard worker. Kylie works well independently and offers thoughtful insights to classroom discussions. She is also very creative and artistic. One of Kylie’s greatest qualities is her ability to persevere and overcome anything that gets in her way."

Her family consists of her mom, dad, her brother Nolan, her sister Mackenzie, one dog, two cats and one hamster.

A reminder from the Portland Water District

With the increased attention on disinfection practices and short supplies of toilet paper during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Water District reminds the public to flush only toilet paper and human waste. Materials not meant to be flushed down a toilet like baby wipes, cleaning wipes, paper towels, rags, dental floss, etc., clog wastewater pumps and systems.

“Our resources will likely be strained over the weeks ahead, and I hope our customers will be careful about what they flush.  We are working to keep our systems operating and the extra burden caused by these materials will make that job much more difficult,” stated Scott Firmin, director of wastewater services.

Clogged pumps create unnecessary expenses, they also can have a negative impact on the environment and expose workers to dangerous situations. For the health of our environment, the public, and wastewater workers, we’d like to remind everyone to please only flush toilet paper and human waste.

Don’t flush wipes, they clog pipes and plug pumps. Even wipes labeled flushable are questionable and can cause problems binding with other materials and not breaking down in time to make it through equipment. A better option is to place the materials in a covered container or bag and disposed in the trash.

An important legislative update

By Senator Bill Diamond

On Tuesday March 17, the Maine Legislature temporarily adjourned to do our part to reduce the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Mitigating this public health crisis is about all of us doing our part to keep our friends, family and neighbors healthy. However, before we adjourned, lawmakers passed a supplemental budget that will keep our state running in the Legislature’s absence.

Here’s an overview of what Maine has done to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak:

Created the COVID-19 response fund so the governor can respond to the pandemic while the Legislature is out of session

Expanded unemployment benefits so Mainers aren’t left in the lurch if their job or income is harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak

Ensured that children who rely on free and reduced lunch can continue to get meals while school is closed

Worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide emergency disaster loans to small businesses impacted by this pandemic

While the State House will be closed until March 30, I want to assure you that staff in my office will continue to work remotely to answer questions and keep you updated on Maine’s response to COVID-19. You can email them at senate.democrats@legislature.maine.com. In fact, I will do my best to send weekly updates on what is going on with COVID-19 in Maine, how you can protect your own health and helpful resources.

These are uncertain times, and I know that can be unsettling for many people. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions, concerns or need more information at diamondhollyd@aol.com or (207) 650-4713



Our top priority: Responding to the coronavirus
Our number one priority before adjourning for the year was making sure that Maine could effectively respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve seen what happens when states take action and when they don’t. It is our job to do everything we can to support our constituents through these trying times.
This list of emergency legislation includes two measures specifically targeting the COVID-19 response. The first measure creates an $11 million COVID-19 fund, which the governor can use in the Legislature's absence. The second bill is the Governor’s COVID-19 Omnibus bill, which will do the following:
Expand unemployment benefits to help workers and businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19
Allow the Department of Education to waive certain school-day requirements and to continue school lunch programs for all eligible kids
Allow remote participation in some municipal meetings
Allow the state to guarantee interest-free loans to Mainers
Streamline the process to allow the Maine Emergency Medical Services’ Board to delegate functions and authority to Maine EMS staff




Are you out of work because of the coronavirus?
Apply for unemployment today.
Today, the Maine Legislature passed legislation to expand unemployment benefits to cover workers harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic in Maine. We’ve also changed the regulations to recognize the unprecedented situation. We’ve waived the one-week waiting period for benefits and the work search requirement for workers who know that they will be returning to the same job at the end of this crisis.
You are now eligible to collect unemployment benefits in the following situations:
An employer temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19
An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over
An individual leaves employment due to risk of exposure or infection
An individual leaves employment to care for a family member
Here is the link to apply: reemployme.maine.gov/accessme/faces/login/login.xhtml





Small business loans available
In Maine, our economy is powered by small businesses in our downtowns. Over the last few days, I’ve heard from many small businesses worried about how they will economically survive the COVID-19 outbreak. Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved Governor Mills’ application for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help Maine businesses overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to the pandemic. Maine is one of the first states in the country to be approved, and Maine small business owners can now begin applying for these loans.
Here is what businesses need to apply:
SBA Disaster Loan Application Account: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Register1
IRS Form 4506-T: https://irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506t.pdf
Personal financial statement
A schedule of liabilities
A copy of your most recently filed federal income tax return.


Where things stand today

Information and guidelines surrounding the coronavirus pandemic are constantly evolving and being updated. As of Tuesday morning, the Maine CDC had announced 32 cases of COVID-19 in the state. Cases have been identified in Cumberland County, Androscoggin, Lincoln, Knox, Oxford, York and Kennebec counties. However, right now community transmission has only been found in Cumberland County.
On Sunday, Governor Mills declared a state of civil emergency and outlined four major recommendations that will help slow the spread of the coronavirus in Maine. Those recommendations are:
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
The governor’s recommendations are in effect until further notice.