Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

Dear Friend, 

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives in large and small ways. We know physical distancing and staying home are the best vaccines we currently have to fight this virus, but that doesn’t mean either are done easily or without sacrifices.

Some Mainers have had to celebrate life milestones and holidays virtually. Others have gotten up each day to do essential work at a hospital, pharmacy, or a grocery store. And thousands of Mainers have had their economic livelihoods completely upended. We know that no one is immune to the health effects of this virus—no matter their age or health status—but the changes to our daily lives have also taken a toll on us all. I want to sincerely thank you for all you’ve done to adapt to these difficult times.

As Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC said this week, “Perhaps no one has thanked you if you canceled a birthday party, graduation, or religious gathering. So I thank you. Please know that you have helped save lives.” I am so grateful to you and ask that you please keep it up for your own safety and that of your fellow Mainers.

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, located at pingree.house.gov/coronavirus. You can also check out my FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for updates.

Best, 

Chellie

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Click here to watch my thank you video to our tireless health care workers.


Update from Maine

ImageGovernor Mills' request for a major disaster declaration for the state of Maine was approved on April 6, bringing emergency federal aid to our state and opening up assistance for Maine people and businesses suffering from the results of the coronavirus. The Maine delegation wrote to President Trump in support of this request.

We're all getting used to working from a distance, but Congress' work is even more important during this crisis. The Portland Press Herald covered the Maine delegation's shift to remote work, which you can read here

I'll be joining the Maine Center for Economic Policy for a discussion on COVID-19 on Thursday, April 16, at 10:30 AM. The event will be livestreamed on their Facebook page.

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

ImageCongress has passed three legislative response packages to the coronavirus pandemic: an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the CARES Act

Although each of these bills contain sweeping initiatives to support Americans throughout this crisis, we still have so much work to do to get our economy on track. In Congress' next legislative package, here are just a few items that we need to urgently address:

-More funding to support students who are now learning remotely. Congressman Golden and I wrote to House leadership asking them to include $2 billion under the Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program to allow Maine students to receive mobile hotspots if they don't have access to high-speed broadband.

-More assistance to small businesses and lengthening the time these loans are available, as well as a legislative fix to ensure that no eligible small businesses are turned away by lenders. The Paycheck Protection Program has been in huge demand since it opened last Friday, and it is clear we need more funding to help keep our small businesses afloat. It is also clear that the length of the PPP needs to be extended to accommodate Maine's seasonal and hospitality businesses.

-More funding for hospitals, community health centers and health systems, providing desperately needed resources to the frontlines of this crisis. This week I announced the first grants to community health centers from the CARES Act, totaling $4.1 million in Maine's First Congressional District. This is will tide many providers over for now, but we’ll need much more to get us through this crisis.

-Extend funding to small state and local governments to manage this crisis and mitigate lost revenue, doubling down on the investment secured in the CARES Act. Municipalities and counties with a population under 500,000 were left out of targeted relief included in the CARES Act. Maine is the most rural state in the nation; with a statewide population of only 1.3 million, no Maine municipalities or counties contain more than 500,000 people. This week, I cosponsored a bill to fix this provision.


Frequently Asked Questions

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How does loan forgiveness work for the Paycheck Protection Program, authorized by the CARES Act? The loan will be forgiven if a company uses the money to retain its workers. Both full and partial loan forgiveness is available. Companies can borrow up to two months of their average monthly payroll costs.

How do I apply for the Paycheck Protection Program? You must apply through a bank or other lender. Your best bet is likely the bank you already have a relationship with.

More FAQs from the SBA on the Paycheck Protection Program here.

Are farmers eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program? Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers with 500 or fewer employees are eligible. Farms are eligible if the farm has 500 or less employees OR it fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is on average annual receipts of $1 million. 

More FAQs for famers and growers available through USDA here.

Who is eligible for the economic impact direct payments through the CARES Act? All Americans with a work eligible Social Security Number and not claimed as a dependent will receive up to $1,200, depending on their Adjusted Gross Income. Most people won’t need to do anything to receive their rebate, including if they filed their 2018 or 2019 taxes, or are Social Security or Railroad Retirement recipients.  Taxpayers can check the IRS.gov tool - Do I Need to File a Tax Return? - to see if they have a filing requirement. 

I do not file a tax return or do not give my direct deposit information to the IRS. How do I receive my economic impact direct payment? Non-filers may need to take additional steps via the online portal launched today. The IRS plans to open another online portal the week of April 13 to track economic impact payments. The portal will allow taxpayers, once authenticated, to find out the status of their economic impact payments and, if no payment or check has been issued, they can provide their banking information for direct deposit. You can receive your payment by check if you prefer not to provide banking information, but it will take longer to arrive.

What is the estimated timeline for receiving these economic impact payments? Payments will be sent to taxpayers with direct deposit information on file with the IRS beginning the week of April 13. The IRS plans to start mailing paper checks in late April/early May. These will be issued at the rate of about 5 million per week, and could take up to 20 weeks for all to get out. 

How can arts organizations access funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which was appropriated in the CARES Act? Arts organizations can apply for a grant through NEA. Any grantees from the last four fiscal years are eligible for $50,000 grants to cover operating expenses. This funding will help preserve jobs and help support organizations closed due to COVID-19. These grants will be announced by June 30.

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Make your own face covering with the information provided here.


Resources and Updates from Our Community

ImageThe CDC is now recommending that we wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, like grocery stores and pharmacies. Make sure your face covering is snug and secure, with multiple layers of fabric. And all face masks should be washed every time they are worn. More information available here.

Maine Coast Fishermen's Association is sharing information on where to order local seafood for pick up and delivery. More here.

NOAA is working with a team of experts to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the commercial seafood industry. If you'd like to share feedback with NOAA on how your seafood business has been effected by the pandemic, you can submit your stories here.

Have kids at home and need some new educational resources? The Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress are both offering free digital resources to students. 

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau has put out a helpful video about mortgage options during the coronavirus crisis.

Don't forget to fill out your census! You can stay inside and fill it out online or send your response via mail. As of yesterday, Maine was at a very low response rate of 37.5%. Remember: critical federal funding for our state depends on everyone being counted.

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