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 email@example.com. 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.