Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

Dear Friend,

Yesterday I flew back to Washington to cast my vote for Congress' latest coronavirus emergency relief legislation. Airports that are usually bustling with travelers were nearly empty. The sight of vacant airport lounges was a stark reminder of the toll this virus has taken on our economy and routines.

ImageMy gate at the airport on Thursday.

Reopening our economy and returning to some sort of normalcy is at the front of all of our minds, but it cannot be done safely without widespread testing. I voted in favor of H.R. 266, the latest COVID-19 relief package, because it will require the Trump administration to develop a national testing strategy within 21 days of the legislation’s enactment, and provide $25 billion for states to expand their COVID-19 testing capacity. As I discuss later in this newsletter, the bill invests $310 billion in small business relief and $75 billion for our health care providers to recoup losses and purchase personal protective equipment (PPE). While this funding bill will address some urgent needs, our work is far from over to support workers and their families.

I cannot thank you enough for doing your part to stay home, wear a mask when in public spaces, and wash your hands regularly. If we all adhere to the CDC’s guidance, we will stem the spread of this disease and hopefully be able to enjoy the natural beauty of our state in the warmer months to come.

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.

Stay home and stay healthy,

Chellie


Update from Maine

This week, the State of Maine launched Maine FrontLine WarmLine, a call-in system to help Maine health care workers and first responders manage the stress of serving on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

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Maine received an additional $5 million from the CARES Act for epidemiology and lab capacity. This funding will go a long way to help us test more people in Maine and understand how many cases of COVID-19 are in Maine.

Last Friday, the USDA announced a $19 billion stimulus for farmers. I’ve urged Secretary Perdue to swiftly develop an agency-wide outreach strategy to make sure local producers know what funding is available and how to access it. Without urgent action, local food economies across the country will take a significant hit and the impact will be felt acutely in states like Maine where we have robust regional agriculture markets.


What Congress is Doing to Respond to COVID-19

This week, the House passed emergency legislation to ensure student veterans still receive education benefits through the semester, even if the veteran is unable to attend school in person. That bill is waiting for the President’s signature.

Yesterday, the House passed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act—better known as Congress' latest COVID-19 relief bill. Democrats secured provisions in the bill to expand COVID-19 testing and deliver billions in critical aid to health care providers and small businesses. In the bill, a bipartisan agreement was reached to provide $310 billion in additional funding for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which thousands of Maine businesses have utilized.   It also contains several key provisions added at the insistence of House and Senate Democrats, including:

-$25 billion to expand COVID-19 testing and a requirement that the Secretary of Health and Human Services submit to Congress a COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan no later than 21 days after enactment.
-$75 billion for hospitals and other health care providers to recoup losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and help them purchase desperately needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 
-$30 billion set-aside within PPP for small banks and credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), to ensure that financial institutions in Maine and other smaller states are not squeezed out by big banks. 
-$60 billion to replenish the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and allow more $10,000 emergency grants for small businesses.
-Allowing small farmers to access the EIDL loan and grant programs.

This funding package will help small businesses keep employees on the payroll, but it is far from sufficient. While I am glad this legislation will now allow small farmers to take advantage of the EIDL program and help community-based banks to lend, it does not address the structural problems with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For tens of thousands of Mainers who’ve lost their income, a one-time stimulus check is not enough to address the bills that are still arriving on time.

VideoClick here to watch my video from Washington this week.

In the next COVID-19 relief package, Congress needs to fix the PPP’s structural deficiencies and consider a different model for maintaining the livelihoods of both workers and small businesses. I’ve cosponsored the Payroll Guarantee Act to provide immediate, direct cash support for workers missing paychecks. This approach, which is similar to those in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, and Australia, would cover 100% of wages for workers and maintain their employer-sponsored benefits, and cover essential business expenses like rent to keep them afloat.


Frequently Asked Questions

The president has announced his intention to limit immigration during this time. What does that look like and who will it affect? On April 22, President Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspends the issuance of new green cards. It applies to those seeking permanent residence in the United States and will last for 60 days. The order explicitly exempts H2A workers. It's appalling that Trump is using a deadly pandemic to advance a hateful, bigoted agenda. While millions of immigrants are doing essential jobs, many without the PPE they need to be protected, this administration is trying to divert attention from its failure to respond swiftly to COVID-19—costing jobs and lives.

How can I help? In response to the extraordinary generosity of Maine people, businesses, and organizations looking to help during these challenging times, Governor Janet Mills today launched a new online resource, coronavirus.maine.gov/mainehelps, to outline ways in which Maine people can support efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, go here.

Will the IRS be contacting me regarding my economy impact payment? No. The IRS will not contact you to confirm your financial, personal, or banking information. If you receive an inquiry of this nature, it is likely to be a scam. Be careful and work only through IRS.gov.

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Resources and Community Updates

ImageIf you or anyone you know is struggling with stress or anxiety during this time, the American Psychological Association is offering a range of materials related to our current situation. More here.

The UMaine Extension has established the Maine Farm Food Access Program, which reimburses direct-market farms and farmers' markets for new EBT machines to process SNAP-only transactions. If you know of any farms or farmers' markets that are interested in this program, they can sign up here.

Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) are introducing new Maine Farm Emergency Grants to assist farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This collaborative effort will provide support to farmers who need assistance mitigating the economic impact of COVID-19, and will help them adapt their businesses to be responsive to changing markets. Apply here.

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