Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

Dear Friend,

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Maine’s economy. Ninety six percent of Maine's businesses are small, and more than half of our workforce is employed by a small business. As we've seen across our nation, the nearly 150,000 small businesses in Maine have been devastated by public health measures we've had to impose to stop the spread of this pandemic.

Still, during these times, the character of our state shines through. Neighbor to neighbor, Maine's business community has come together. From American Roots apparel company and Sea Bags to New Balance and L.L. Bean, an impressive number of Maine-based companies have stepped up to manufacture much-needed masks and PPE. Dozens of breweries and distilleries are making hand sanitizer to backfill the national shortage.

I am so proud of how our business community has united during these times to protect their fellow Mainers. But I know small businesses need much more support. Small business owners from across our state have called into my office to share their experiences with the federal aid provided thus far, and they’ve been clear that more funding is needed but so are fixes to SBA lending programs. This week, I made sure to relay their concerns to House leadership: I authored a letter outlining solutions to better support small businesses and their workforces during this crucial time. You can read more about the small business aid I want to see in the next coronavirus relief package on my website here, and also in the "What is Congress Doing to Combat Coronavirus" section of the below newsletter.

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 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates.

Stay healthy and stay home,

Chellie


Update from Maine

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This week, Governor Mills extended the state of civil emergency through May 15. As the virus continues to spread throughout Maine and our country, it is imperative that we stay home and only leave our houses when absolutely essential. It is also more important than ever that we wear masks to cover our faces when we go out. This is not only to reduce your own risk of being exposed to COVID-19, but to reduce the spread of asymptomatic COVID-19. As an avid sewer, I have been making masks for myself and my family members. Above are my masks of the week!

I joined the Maine Center for Economic Policy this past Thursday, where we discussed the federal government's response to the coronavirus pandemic: what has been done so far, and what more needs to be done to protect our country's health and financial well-being. If you missed it, you can watch here.

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Watch my conversation with MECEP here.

I announced a grant of $427,000 to the Maine Arts Commission, funding I pushed for in the CARES Act. 5.1 million Americans work in our nation's arts and culture economy, and the pandemic has forced show cancellations and museum closures across the country. These funds will help Maine arts organizations to preserve jobs and cover operational costs. More here.

This week, the Maine Delegation requested more PPE for Mainers working on the front lines like health care workers and first responders—you can read our letter here. We also joined with the New Hampshire Delegation in pushing Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to reinstate their paid leave policy. A recent updated policy reduced the paid administrative leave options available to public shipyard workers during this pandemic, which creates disincentives for sick or high-risk workers to stay home as necessary. More here.

Next Wednesday, April 22, I will be joining UMaine Cooperative Extension on a Zoom call about Congress' work to support farmers during this crisis. You can register for free here.


What Congress is Doing to Combat Coronavirus

As you know, Congress has so far passed three coronavirus response bills, each containing a myriad of initiatives to support the American people through this crisis. Though we, like many of you, are working remotely, we continue in our efforts to pass legislation that truly supports families and workers during this crisis. 

A fourth major legislative package building on the CARES Act is in the works. This legislation will extend and expand this bipartisan package and go further in supporting Maine workers and families. However, it’s clear that we need to take more immediate action to support programs essential to Mainers. I’m supporting an interim package that includes more funding and fixes to the PPP (more on that below), support for state and local governments, broadly expanded testing and access to PPE, and money for health care providers.

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The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was authored in the CARES Act as a forgivable loan program for small business to pay their employees during the coronavirus pandemic, when business doors are closed across the country. However, PPP ran out of funds on April 16, only 18 days after $350 billion was appropriated for the program. PPP has several flaws that have become apparent since it was established. I wrote to House leadership this week to convey the stories that Maine's small business community has told me about PPP, as well as what I think we can do to support small businesses via PPP and Congress' next legislative package:

  • Increase funding the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • Extend the deadline for the PPP’s forgiveness plan by at least five months
  • Allow PPP loans to cover a greater share of non-payroll expenses
  • Ensure that community-based banks and credit unions have access to PPP funds and can take on new customers
  • Increase funding for SBA disaster loans
  • Help small businesses with rent and mortgage payments.
  • Provide no-interest loans.
  • Address the disparity between UI compensation and PPP
  • Ensure that immigrants are not excluded from or discriminated against in small business support programs

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In other news, this week I cosponsored H.R. 6425, essential legislation to support the United States Postal Service (USPS) during the pandemic. USPS handles 47% of the world's mail and has been hard hit a serious drop in mail volume. We must protect this essential service and the more than 600,000 workers who power it. You can read more from Seacoast Online here.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • I am trying to claim unemployment as a self-employed individual. Why is my claim not being approved? Self-employed individuals are allowed to claim unemployment under the CARES Act. However, unemployment benefits are not yet available for self-employed individuals. State of Maine Department of Labor is waiting for federal guidance on how to process these claims. More information is available on the Maine Department of Labor's website.
  • I am a SSI recipient. Will I receive a COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment? Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will automatically receive their Economic Impact Payments directly to their bank accounts through direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their SSI benefits. Treasury anticipates SSI recipients will receive these automatic payments no later than early May. If you have no qualifying children, you do not need to take any action to receive the payment. If you have qualifying dependents, you should use the Nonfilers portal. Doing this will allow you to receive a $1,200 payment and an additional $500 per dependent child under 17.
  • Where can I go for updates on my economic impact payment? You can visit the IRS portal to either check in on the status of your payment or input your direct despot information.
  • I have questions about my small business during this time. Where can I go to find more information about the PPP and available support for my business? There remains a lot of questions about PPP and EIDL, and generally about the future of small businesses across our country. Things are changing incredibly quickly. The best resources still remain the SBA's PPP and EIDL pages, as well as Treasury's CARES Act summary.

Resources and Community Updates

Baxter Academy teacher Jon Amory and his students have helped develop an emergency ventilator to support COVID-19 patients. More here.

Looking for information about where to find meals for kids when schools are closed? A comprehensive map is available from USDA here.

Maine Department of Labor has extended their call hours to Monday through Friday, 8 am to 3 pm. 

You can explore 32 national parks virtually, including our treasured Acadia.

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Missing the arts during this time? Here are some digital ways to connect with arts institutions in Maine and across the country:

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