Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

 

Dear Friend,

America has suffered enormous losses in the last few weeks. More than 75,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and 33 million have lost their jobs. This crisis is heartbreaking and calls for a re-evaluation of public policies that have long needed reform, particularly within our food system.

ImageIt’s appalling to witness America’s food banks overrun with need while our nation’s farmers are forced to dump their milk or compost their crops. This is a policy failure that I want fixed in the next COVID-19 response package. 

This week, I urged House leadership to adopt changes that will give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries and food banks greater flexibility to procure locally produced food. Small farms have been struggling to maintain their consumer base and these overdue reforms would give them an economic boost while helping to feed America’s food insecure. It’s a commonsense move that I hope we can make a reality when the House votes on the next coronavirus relief package in the upcoming weeks.

Our fisheries also play a critical role in keeping us fed. That’s why Congresswoman Jared Golden (ME-02) and I have requested that the next coronavirus stimulus package include at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products and distribute them to non-profits providing food to those in need. I’ve also joined a bipartisan push to secure $20 billion for the nation’s seafood industry in our next coronavirus response bill.
 
While Congress must do more to support our small food producers and fisheries, these industries did receive some good news from the federal government this week—and so did Maine children. Yesterday, I was pleased to announce that Maine lobstermen, fishermen, and other Mainers working in the seafood supply chain will receive more than $20 million in aid through the CARES Act—the fifth highest amount of any state in the nation. Small farms and agricultural businesses with fewer than 500 employees became eligible to apply for the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan—which you can apply for here. Maine became one of 20 states approved for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), which ensures that the more than 82,000 Maine students eligible for free or reduced lunch will still be fed, even during school closures.

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


Update from Maine

Maine secured a major expansion of COVID-19 testing through a partnership with IDEXX Laboratories. The state should now have the capacity to run at least 5,000 tests per week for the foreseeable future. More from the Portland Press Herald.

This week, Maine became one of only 20 states to be approved for the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), which offers financial reimbursement to families as a replacement for the free or reduced-price meals their children normally receive at school. More than 82,000 Maine children in public schools qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and no child deserves to go hungry—now or at any other time. If you have an existing Pine Tree Card, you just need to look for the P-EBT to be added to your account in May. If you don't have a Pine Tree Card but your child received free or reduced lunch, you can request P-EBT by calling 1-855-797-4357. More here from the Sun Journal.


What Congress is Doing to Respond to the Coronavirus

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In honor of National Nurses Week and Mental Health Awareness Month, I joined more than 90 than of my colleagues in urging House leaders to prioritize mental health services for our health care workers in the next coronavirus relief package. It’s critical that we ease the psychological stress on providers who are putting themselves at risk to care for patients through this pandemic.

I joined 104 of my House colleagues to ask the Small Business Administration to accept new Economic Injury Disaster Loan applicants and provide current applications with an update on their loan status. Maine’s small businesses are the economic backbone of our state, and they deserve support from the federal government during this time of uncertainty. Business owners across the country are fighting for their futures, and the federal government must ensure these programs are actually working to support them.

Companies are not currently required to publicly disclose if they receive funds from the Paycheck Protection Plan. I believe the American people should know where these funds are going and how they're being used. This week, I'm cosponsoring a bill authored by Congresswoman Porter that would require SBA and the Treasury Department to make PPP data public, including date, recipient, loan amount, employee count, tax status, minority/veteran status, and executive compensation.

ImageI've signed on to a letter in support of the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which would make sure the workers who are keeping us safe, fed, and healthy have access to the protections they need during this pandemic: health and safety protections; hazard pay; paid sick, family, and medical leave; and corporate accountability, to name a few. 

As the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus, I've seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our community-based organizations that are dedicated to bringing people together—from museums, to libraries, to the performing arts. That's why I led more than 70 of my colleagues in urging House leadership to include funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment (NEH) for the humanities in the next coronavirus response legislation. It is clear that, without significant continued federal support, this crisis will have devastating economic consequences that will last well beyond the public health emergency.


Frequently Asked Questions

What resources are available to assist parents with meals for their children while schools are closed? Many schools across Maine are offering offsite meals that can be picked up by families in need. The Department of Education updates an interactive map outlining all available school meal sites daily. Additionally, Maine was approved for the Pandemic EBT this week, which offers financial reimbursement to families as a replacement for the free or reduced-price meals their children normally receive at school. 

I qualify for Pandemic EBT. What happens next? If you have an existing Pine Tree Card and are open on SNAP or TANF, you just need to look for the first benefit amount to be added to your account in May.

What if I am not or SNAP or TANF, but my child received free or reduced lunch? If you are not on SNAP or TANF, but your child received free or reduced lunch you will need to request the benefit by calling 1-855-797-4357.  You will need to give certain demographic information to an eligibility specialist who will then verify with the Department of Education that your child or children received free or reduced lunch.

What if my child did not receive free or reduced lunch, but I would like to apply? If your child or children did not receive free or reduced lunch, you can apply through your local school district.  If you are found eligible you can call 1-855-797-4357 and give certain demographic information to an eligibility specialist who will then verify with the Department of Education that your child or children are now eligible for free or reduced lunch.  If you are newly eligible for free or reduced lunch you will only receive one benefit amount.

I received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) for someone who is deceased. What do I do? A Payment made to someone who died before receipt of the Payment should be returned to the IRS by following these instructions

I am confused about how self-employed people file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Can you provide guidance? State Representative Genevieve McDonald has graciously put together a step-by-step guide for self-employed people who are filing for PUA, which you can find here.


Resources and Community Updates

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Public health protocols have caused museums, libraries, and other cultural nonprofits to close their doors. Through the Maine Humanities Council, more than $400,000 in federal aid will be granted out to these organizations impacted by coronavirus. You can apply for the grants before May 15 here

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank a teacher you know! They are doing so much to adapt and keep our children going during these uncertain times.

It is Mental Health Awareness Month. Everyone should take extra care of themselves during these times. I'd also like to make sure that our health care workers and providers have support when it is needed most. Maine has established a FrontLine WarmLine to do just that, which is available between 8 AM and 8 PM every day by calling (207) 221-8196 or (866) 367-4440. 

If you or someone you know needs a loan during this time, the Finance Authority of Maine is offering the COVID-19 Relief Consumer Loan Program, which offers low or no interest loans of up to $5,000. More information from FAME here.

If you have a question on how to access programs such as MaineCare, TANF, SNAP, or Child Care Subsidies, please visit the Maine Department of Health and Human Service's website here.

If you're missing music and concerts from your favorite bands and artists, Billboard has a great list of upcoming music livestreams. More here.

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