Message from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree

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Dear Friend,

Two months since most of us started to feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the sheer mass of this crisis is overwhelmingly devastating. More than 84,000 are dead; more than 1.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed; more than 36 million unemployment claims have been filed. 

Dealing with this crisis requires unprecedented and bold legislative responses. As you know, the federal government has already enacted three sweeping bills to curb the spread and economic harm of the coronavirus, as well as one supplemental bill. Last night, I joined my House colleagues in passing The Heroes Act, legislation to fund tracing, testing, and treatment; hazard pay for frontline workers; a second round of stimulus payments to help Mainers weather the financial effects of this pandemic; overdue fixes to the PPP small business loan program; and support for our cities and towns which met the challenge of this crisis despite a severe loss of revenue.

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 will receive $52.6 million from Congress' last coronavirus response legislation for increased testing capacity. This will go a long way in making sure we can expand testing access and ensure we have accurate figures as we combat COVID-19.

ImageAs you know, I've been ringing the alarm on the problems the coronavirus has exposed within our food system. There's a national meat shortage; grocery workers are considered "essential" but rarely get sufficient sick leave; and lines are growing at our food banks. I wrote an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald this week, calling for reform in our entire food  system, which you can read here. I also called on Speaker Pelosi to pass the PRIME Act, my bipartisan bill to remove hurdles for small livestock farmers to sell directly to consumers.


What Congress is Doing to Respond to the Coronavirus

Last night, the United States House of Representatives passed The Heroes Act, a comprehensive COVID-19 economic rescue package which will provide direct relief for Mainers, small businesses, and cities and towns throughout Maine. It will also make critical investments in health care services and expand nationwide testing and tracing capacity. Highlights include:

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-$875 billion in state and local funding, including more than $5 billion for the State of Maine and its localities. A breakdown of municipal funding is available here.

-$75 billion in funding to further national and state testing and contact tracing initiatives and $110 billion in funding for providers to keep their doors open

-Extended Pandemic Unemployment benefits through January 2021

-A second round of stimulus checks ($1,200 for a single filer and $2,400 for joint filers, in addition to $1,200 for up to 3 dependents, for up to $6,000 per family); includes expanded eligibility for adult dependents and full-time students under age 24 as well as taxpayers with Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs); these changes would be made retroactive to the CARES Act and allow newly eligible dependents and taxpayers with ITINs to receive their $500 or $1,200 payment from the first round of stimulus payments

-Help for small businesses by extending dates for payroll forgiveness and allowing more non-payroll costs to count, and reserving 25% of PPP funds for businesses with 10 or fewer employees

-A 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits

-A requirement for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop protections for frontline workers

-Free, no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail for every voter; $29 million in election aid for the State of Maine

-$25 billion to preserve the United States Postal Service

-Over $100 billion in support for education, including for K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and early childhood education providers, including $1.5 billion to close the “homework gap” by providing funding for Wi-Fi hotspots to students without reliable internet access and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity during distance learning

-$16.5 billion in direct assistance to farmers and $100 million in relief funds for American fisheries

-$50 million for the Local Agriculture Market Program, known as LAMP

ImageProtecting the World Starts With You, by MECA Student Michael Carosielli '22


Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I file for my weekly unemployment certification? The Maine Department of Labor has made a video explaining how to fill out your weekly certification if you have earned no money in a given week. The video is available here.

If I've lost my job and my employer-based health insurance, how do I now access health insurance? You may be eligible for MaineCare coverage, and you can apply here. You also may be eligible for coverage through the Affordable Care Act. If you need support in understanding your options, you can start the process at www.CoverME.gov or call Consumers for Affordable Health Care at 1-800-965-7476.

My child's school is still serving school meals to its students during the coronavirus pandemic. Will this continue through the summer? Many will. USDA announced today that they are extending three nationwide waivers already in place, which allow schools to continue providing meals to students even with school closures:

-Non-Congregate Feeding: FNS is allowing meals to be served to children outside of the normally-required group setting to support social distancing. 

-Parent Pickup: FNS is allowing parents and/or guardians to pick up meals and bring them home to their children. 

-Meal Times: FNS is waiving requirements that meals be served at certain standard times to allow for grab-n-go options. This also allows for multiple days-worth of meals to be provided at once. 
 


Resources and Community Updates

ImageThe Maine Department of Marine Resources is asking seafood industry participants, including those in commercial fishing, seafood, aquaculture, and charter fishing industries, to take a survey about how Maine should spend COVID-19 relief funds to support recovery of the industry in Maine. The $20 million in funding was allocated through the CARES Act. Take the survey here by 5pm on May 22.

76 farms whose operations have been affected by coronavirus have received a total of $141,000 in grants from MOFGA and Maine Farmland Trust. More here.

The drive-in is back! With standard cinemas closed, Maine's drive-in movie theaters are seeing an increase in business. More from the Portland Press Herald here.

About 1 in 3 Maine families are in need of diapers, and the problem has only been exacerbated since the coronavirus pandemic began. News Center Maine has a story on how a Maine community center is helping Mainers get the diapers they need.

Please fill out your census! Maine's response rate is a low 49.5%; the census is far too important to leave anyone uncounted. The census determines congressional representation, hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding every year, and provides data that will impact our communities for the next decade.

If you've recovered from COVID-19, the Red Cross is collecting plasma from individuals who are fully recovered to help with treatment for the most seriously ill patients. More on how to donate here.

There are two new food waste reduction grants available now:

1. ReFED has launched a COVID-19 Food Waste Solutions Fund. ReFed will award a minimum of $1 million in grants over the next 30 days to 30 high-impact organizations in order to rescue more than $8.3 million meals and prevent 10 million pounds of food waste. Apply here.

2. USDA has announced Cooperative Agreements for Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction, a $900,000 grant program to help local governments reduce food waste. Apply here.

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