Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

Dear Friend,

I am heartbroken by the loss of nine Mainers to the coronavirus pandemic this week. In a state as tight-knit as ours, these aren't statistics: these are our neighbors and friends, and we mourn them together. I wish the 75 Mainers currently hospitalized with COVID-19 a speedy recovery, and I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the frontline healthcare workers who are supporting their health care needs.

ImageOver the past three weeks, our world has changed dramatically. Every minute seems to bring more and more news, and so much of it is discouraging. While it's vital to stay informed, it's equally important to rely on verified sources for information—such as the Maine CDC's website, the national CDC's website, and Maine 211. I encourage you to stay connected to what's happening in your community by subscribing to Maine-based newspapers, where reporters are working tirelessly to tell true stories about how our neighbors and municipalities are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. The barrage of content online can often be overwhelming and sometimes misinformed. Make sure to take a break from scrolling and screens each day, and to read questionable social media posts with a healthy skepticism. 

Last Friday, Congress passed and President Trump signed the CARES Act, the third recovery package aimed at addressing the economic fallout from the coronavirus. The CARES Act will deliver much-needed funding to our state to support a range of essential programs like expanded unemployment insurance and small business loans. I have dedicated much of this newsletter to unpacking the numerous provisions included in that bill. Earlier this week, I joined Maine Calling to discuss this comprehensive funding package; if you missed it, listen here. If you have specific questions about the CARES Act, please submit them via my website, rather than replying to this email.

If any of your family or friends are interested in hearing from my office, please have them sign up for my newsletter here. My website is also updated with resources and congressional actions on COVID-19, which you can find at pingree.house.gov/coronavirus. You can also check out my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for the latest updates.

Stay home and stay healthy,

Chellie


Stay Home to Keep Your Fellow Mainers Healthy

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On March 31, Governor Mills announced a "Stay Safe at Home" order, which requires Mainers to stay home at all times unless they're going to work in an essential industry or need to run an essential errand. You may have questions about how this will affect your day-to-day life:

-You can still go to the supermarket, pharmacy, gas station, or hardware store, but only for essential supplies or medications. Stores will be enforcing limits on the number of people inside at once.
-You can still go outside for exercise or walks provided that you keep a 6 foot distance from others.
-Restaurants and bars are closed to dine-in customers until April 30.

This week, I joined the Maine delegation in pressing President Trump to approve Governor Mills' major disaster declaration request for our state. Due to the pandemic, our resources are strained and we need the federal resources that come from this declaration. More here.

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How Congress and the Federal Government are Working to Combat COVID-19

Last Friday, March 27, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, Congress' third relief package to help deal with the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic for workers and small businesses across the country. I've included answers to your FAQs about the CARES Act below.

The economic impact of this pandemic are widespread and it's clear that more work needs to be done. My team and I are taking feedback from you and we are assessing gaps in the CARES Act in order to help shape a fourth relief package.

This week, I cosponsored the All Dependent Children Count Act, a bipartisan bill to fix one of those gaps in the CARES Act. This bill would guarantee college students and adult dependents will also receive the one-time COVID-19 relief payments authorized by Congress. Although young adults may be claimed as dependents, they are actually financially independent and could be out of work or struggling because of the pandemic. We must fix this. Read more here.

I am also focused on the major challenge of acquiring enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep our frontline workers safe. The Maine delegation joined to push the Department of Homeland Security to authorize the release of more PPE from the National Stratetegic Stockpile for Maine's health care and public safety workers. Read more here.

I also cosponsored the COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act, which would require the Department of Labor to create occupational safety standards through OSHA to protect health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19. This bill will help ensure health care workers are protected from the spread of COVID-19 by creating comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about the CARES Act

Direct Payment and Financial FAQs

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Who is eligible for direct payments, authorized by the CARES Act? How much money will I receive? Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples will receive $1,200 per person. For filers with incomes exceeding these amounts, the payment is reduce by $5 for each $100 in income above those thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and joint filers with income exceeding $198,000 are not eligible. Parents will receive $500 for each child under 17. 

What do I have to do to receive my direct payment? Most people don't have to do anything: if you filed a 2019 or 2018 tax return, the IRS will use that information to calculate your payment amount. They will directly deposit into the same banking account you authorized during your last filed return.

What if the IRS doesn't have my direct deposit information? The U.S. Department of the Treasury is setting up a portal by the end of April for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online.

I'm a Social Security beneficiary with no other income and I don't normally file a tax return. Will I receive a direct payment automatically or do I have to take further action? You do not need to file a tax return or an abbreviated tax return. Instead, a payment will be automatically deposited into your bank account (if you receive a 1099 form). Have any questions about Social Security, SSI, or whether you have to take action to receive this check? Call my office at (207) 774-5019.

When should I expect to receive my direct payment? The IRS will make about 60 million payments to Americans through direct deposit in mid-April. About three weeks after those deposits are made, the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals at a rate of about 5 million per week. It could take up to 20 weeks for all the checks to be disbursed. 

I am a homeowner. How does the CARES Act help me? The CARES Act includes a provision that lets homeowners with FHA, USDA, VA, Section 184 or 184A, Fannie Mae, or Freddie Mac mortgages request forbearance on their payments for up to six months, with a possible extension for another six months without fees, penalties, or extra interest. If you want to request forbearance, you should contact your mortgage servicing company directly.

I am a renter. How does the CARES Act protect me? The CARES Act takes specific steps to protect renters. Renters in public or assisted housing, in a home or apartment whose owner has a federally-backed mortgage, and who are unable to pay their rent are protected from eviction for 4 months.  

Small Businesses FAQs

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I am a small business owner and need immediate help to keep my business afloat. How does the CARES Act help me? The CARES Act provides numerous forms of support for small business job retention. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) are two options available for small businesses.

When can I apply for the Paycheck Protection Program? Applications opened up today, April 3 for small businesses and sole proprietors. Independent contractors and nonprofits can apply on April 10. You can find the application here.

How do I apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan? Follow this link to SBA's site. 

How long does it take to receive an Emergency Economic Injury Grant? These emergency advances must be made available within three days of apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

More information about the PPP and EIDL are available from the House Committee on Small Business here and here.

I work in the arts or cultural economy. Are the arts helped by the CARES Act? Yes! As the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus, I know the arts are a huge economic engine for Maine and the nation. The CARES Act included $75 million each in relief funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which will be allocated to state agencies and cultural organizations suffering from the effects of the pandemic. And, if an arts institution is a 501(c)(3), they are eligible to apply for PPP.

Employment FAQs

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I am unemployed due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. How does the CARES Act help me? The CARES Act expands unemployment insurance to more workers than ever before and adds an additional $600 weekly benefit to the existing compensation benefit as determined by the state. This should help unemployed workers to offset income loss and help support themselves and their families during this crisis.

I am a gig worker/self-employed/sole proprietor/independent contractor. Am I eligible for unemployment? The CARES Act established a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that will cover gig workers, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, and independent contractors affected by the coronavirus pandemic. More information is forthcoming from the Maine Department of Labor.

Maine Department of Labor Bureau of Unemployment Compensation is also a great resource for questions and ways to file, linked here.

Student, School, and Educator FAQs

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I'm having trouble paying my student loans due to COVID-19. How can the CARES Act help? The CARES Act suspends loan payments and prevents interest from accruing on federal loans through September.

How does the CARES Act support primary and secondary education? The CARES Act provides $31 billion in emergency funding to schools, students, institutions, and states across the country, including $13 billion to support school districts as they transition to online leaning.

How does the CARES Act support institutions of higher education? The CARES Act helps students and institutions alike cope with campus closures. Students will still receive vital financial support such as federal work study and emergency financial aid; institutions will be provided with direct financial relief to bridge the gap of lost revenue due to school closures.

 

Resources and Updates from Our Community

Looking for ways to help Maine's music scene when their shows are on pause due to coronavirus? Buy band merchandise or follow musicians on their social media. Many are doing live performances and Q&As through their social channels.

Applications for the Portland Artist Relief Fund are now open and can be found here.

Good Shepherd Food Bank is a great one-stop resource to find food if you or someone you know is struggling to access food during this time.

Are you a farmer or grower? Some important resources for you:

-The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service is hosting Daily Maine Farmer online connection sessions from 10-11 am on weekdays. The Extension also has a robust list of FAQs on their website here.

-The Maine Federation of Farmers' Markets has a list of winter farmers markets, measures they're taking in the face of COVID-19, and resources for farmers on their website.

-Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is maintaining the most recent guidance from Maine CDC and issuing guidance for agriculture and food-producing businesses. More here.

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Nearly 20 of Maine's brewers and distillers have teamed up with the University of Maine to put their unused alcohol to good use at a time when hand sanitizer is in high demand but short supply. 

The Maine Coast Fisherman's Association, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the Maine Lobstermen's Association all have great resources for those in the fishing and lobster industry.

Maine Philanthropy Center has a great list of resources for nonprofits, including how to access grant funding. 

Portland Food Map has a comprehensive collection of food-related resources, including take-out and delivery locations in Portland, resources for hospitality workers, and more.

Don't forget that if you have any questions about this crisis, you can always contact 211 for help. Whether your question is about your health, your job, your finances, or your food, 211 is available at any time to answer your questions. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

For those experiencing domestic violence, sheltering in place can be a concern. If you or someone you love needs help, please contact Maine's Domestic Abuse Helpline at 1-866-834-HELP, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

If you haven't already, fill out your census! You can complete it via mail or online here.

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