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  • Mills Outlines Vision for a Gradual, Safe Reopening of Maine’s Economy

    Science, public health, and collaboration will drive Maine’s phased-in approach to reopening the economy when the time is right

     April 23,2020

    Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills today outlined her vision for a gradual and safe reopening of Maine’s economy amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, emphasizing four principles that will guide the State’s decision-making process and inviting Maine people to offer their ideas through a new portal launched by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

    “While we all dream of going back to the way things were, we have to face the hard truth that the coronavirus continues to be a threat and that life will not return to normal soon. Instead, we have to invent a new normal – a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and recreating that keeps all of us safe,” said Governor Mills. “In the coming weeks, my Administration will continue to assess the impact of the coronavirus in Maine and engage with various sectors of the Maine economy to determine how they can safely reopen at the right time in the right way. This will be a gradual process to protect the health of Maine people while restarting our economy.”

    Maine’s reopening will be driven first and foremost by public health considerations and guided by the following principles:

    1. Protecting Public Health: The State will continue to continue to rely on epidemiological data, such as case trends, hospitalization rates, recoveries and deaths, to inform decisions with the private sector regarding the appropriateness of lifting restrictions. 
    1. Maintaining Health Care Readiness: Maine must maintain its capacity to respond to any surge of the virus. To that end, the State will continue to work closely with our hospitals and health systems to assess system capacity, including available hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators, and will continue to procure and distribute personal protective equipment as needed to hospitals, nursing facilities, emergency services, and other frontline responders.  
    1. Building Reliable and Accessible Testing: Testing capacity for all symptomatic people and sentinel disease surveillance are key elements of reopening various sectors of the economy. While the widespread availability of rapid testing remains a challenge, the State is actively seeking to expand testing to make it more accessible to Maine people.
    2. Prioritizing Public-Private Collaboration: Collaboration and leadership among businesses, employees, government entities, and the public is vital to develop, implement, oversee, and adapt guidelines and safe practices. Government alone cannot fix things, government doesn't have all the answers; we need the best thinking of Maine people from every industry and every corner of the state to reimagine and reinvent how we do things in this state in a way that protects both lives and livelihoods.

    More specifically, the Administration’s approach will utilize criteria and measures currently under development by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention leading to a phased reopening of the economy. In its planning, the Maine CDC will also develop measures to detect a resurgence in the virus that may necessitate the reimplementation of restrictions.

    “Science continues to guide Maine’s strategy on COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Ensuring the health and safety of Maine people, which includes taking steps to reduce the risk of a second surge of the virus, remains our priority.”

    Meanwhile, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) will solicit from representatives of industries and various sectors of Maine’s economy their ideas on how they can develop practical, reasonable, evidence-informed protocols that will allow them to safely resume operations or activities once the public health benchmarks are met.

    “Since the Stay Healthy at Home Order was issued, the Department has worked in close partnership and collaboration with the public and private sector to provide the most transparent process possible,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “These have been challenging times for Maine’s economy and as we work to reopen the state it will take thoughtful collaboration to ensure that we effectively prioritize public health while reopening businesses sectors.”

    DECD will work in close partnership with different economic sectors to analyze business practices, consider modifications to prioritize safety and security, and consult with public health experts to confirm that such modifications will be effective to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. These accommodations may be as simple as closing break rooms, providing flexible working hours, and installing plexiglass shields, or as complex as adjusting a business’ sales process to ensure employee and customer safety.

    To that end, Governor Mills launched today a portal through the Department of Economic and Community Development to serve as an avenue for business owners, employees, and Maine residents to offer their ideas. The portal can be accessed at www.maine.gov/decd.

    “We invite all Maine people to take part in the discussion,” said Governor Mills. “Give us your specific ideas on how we can do things differently, how we can restart the economy and keep all our people safe and healthy. We want to hear from you.”

    The Governor cautioned, however, that decisions to reopen sectors of Maine’s economy will be driven by public health considerations and cautioned that moving too aggressively risks a surge of the virus.

    “We all want life to return to normal as soon as it is safe to do so. Our hearts break to see closed storefronts and people struggling to make ends meet because of this crisis,” Governor Mills continued. “At the same time, we all know that reopening too soon and too aggressively is likely to cause a surge in COVID 19 cases, jeopardizing the lives of Maine people, overwhelming our healthcare system and further destabilizing the economy. None of us wants that.”

    Governor Mills continues to work with Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, as well as other governors, on regional coordination in lifting restrictions so as to minimize interstate travel which could jeopardize public health.

    The criteria under development by the Maine CDC will be issued in the next several days and the protocols developed by DECD in close collaboration with industry partners will also be made public when finalized.

    The Governor’s Stay Healthy At Home Order remains in effect through April 30th.

  • Get ready self-employed to apply for COVID-19 unemployment insurance

    State officials are recommending self-employed Mainers prepare their application materials in anticipation of new opportunities to apply for unemployment insurance.

    The state Department of Labor is still working out details of the expanded pandemic unemployment relief plan. But the department says that potential beneficiaries should start gathering the applicable 2018 or 2019 IRS tax schedules — including Schedule C for sole proprietors, and Schedule J for farmers and fishermen. Other useful forms include Schedule SE for self-employment and Schedule K-1 for partnerships and S corporations.

    Officials say more information will be made available at maine.gov/unemployment/.

  • Help line for Maine's Health Care Workers and First Responders

    04/21/2020 02:23 PM EDT
    Phone help service supported by Mills Administration and behavioral health partners is staffed by volunteer professionals

     A new volunteer phone support service, the FrontLine WarmLine, launched today to help Maine health care workers and first responders manage the stress of serving on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The FrontLine Warmline serves health care professionals, such as physicians, nurses and counselors, as well as emergency medical services personnel, law enforcement, and others who are directly responding to the pandemic in Maine. The line is staffed by volunteer professionals activated through Maine Responds, including licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and nurse practitioners, who can help callers to deal with anxiety, irritability stress, poor sleep, grief or worry and, if needed, connect them with additional supports.

    The FrontLine WarmLine is available to clinicians and first responders from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week by calling (207) 221-8196 or 866-367-4440. Text capability will be added soon.

    The FrontLine WarmLine is a joint effort of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Maine Department of Public Safety's Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians, The Opportunity Alliance, Maine Psychological Association, and the Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

    "Maine's health care professionals and first responders have worked tirelessly to protect Maine people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. "We recognize that this work takes an emotional toll so we're proud to support the FrontLine WarmLine as a resource offered by behavioral health peers who know how to help."

    "Maine's first responders and health care providers put themselves under great stress responding to this pandemic," said Jessica Pollard, director of the DHHS Office of Behavioral Health. "It's important for these dedicated professionals to know we're here for them and are ready to support them in managing the completely expected reactions they may have. We thank all of the volunteer professionals who are pitching in to help."

    "As always, Maine's first responders and EMS clinicians are dedicated to continuing to provide high-quality services and care to the people they serve, but it is equally imperative that we serve them with resources like the FrontLine WarmLine to help manage the stress, anxiety, and worries associated with responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," said Maine EMS Director Sam Hurley. "Maine EMS is wholly supportive of the FrontLine WarmLine and encourages all first responders and EMS clinicians to reach out for a helping hand."

    "It's been inspiring to see Maine's mental health community stepping up to support Maine's front line in this pandemic," said Ed Pontius of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians. "All the clinicians and others caring for patients — Maine's first responders and law enforcement — are doing an important job for all of us. We know how tough this work can be on them. We are glad to be able to support them and their crucial work, and we join all of Maine in appreciation of their courage and heroic efforts for all of us."

    The FrontLine WarmLine will be available until further notice.

    For those who are not health care workers or first responders but are experiencing emotional distress, several other 24/7 resources are available:

    • Statewide Crisis Line: 888-568-1112
    • Intentional Peer Support Warmline to speak with staff who have lived experience with mental health conditions: 866-771-9276
    • Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
    • 211 and 211maine.org can provide general COVID-19 information, including how to access behavioral health and social service resources
    • Maine DHHS Office of Behavioral Health resources guide
  • Mills Unveils Actions to Protect Housing for Maine People Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

    Governor issues EO on evictions, establishes rental assistance relief program with MaineHousing & urges mortgage lenders to provide flexibility to homeowners facing financial hardship

    Governor Janet Mills took significant steps on April 16, 2020 to keep Maine people in their homes and Maine businesses in their storefronts as COVID-19 continues to create financial hardships across the state.

    The Governor signed an Executive Order that, when taken in combination with a March 18 order issued by the Maine Court System, will prevent the immediate eviction of tenants other than those who engage in dangerous or unlawful conduct for the duration of the state of emergency. The Governor also strengthened the penalties for landlords who may try to evict tenants by unlawful means, and she extended the timeframe for the eviction process in the event that the Courts reopen before the Governor’s state of emergency is terminated.

    Additionally, the Governor, in partnership with MaineHousing, announced a new rental assistance relief program for Maine people who cannot pay their rent due to COVID-19. The $5 million COVID-19 Rent Relief Program will allow households that meet certain income and ability to pay requirements to receive a one-time, up to $500 payment in rental assistance to be paid directly to their landlord.

    Also, in letters sent to Maine financial institutions, the Governor also urged all financial institutions to provide to work proactively with Maine homeowners and small businesses experiencing financial hardship from COVID-19 to help keep them in their homes and storefronts.

    “We are in the midst of one of the greatest health crises of our lifetimes. Both public health as well as our shared sense of humanity decency demand that people not be forced from their homes and or businesses from their storefronts,” said Governor Mills. “It is my hope that these actions will provide a sense of relief, both financial and emotional, to Maine people struggling to make ends meet and that they will mitigate the spread of the virus by keeping Maine people healthy at home.”

    Executive Order Regarding Unlawful Eviction, Writs of Possession and Initiation of Eviction Proceedings:

    In an effort to reduce the opportunity for community spread of COVID-19 through courthouse activities, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued a Revised Emergency Order on March 18, 2020 that, in part, permits filings in eviction or Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Action but prohibits until at least May 1st any action, hearings and proceedings thereon, unless a case presents a severe threatening emergency.  As a result, only evictions authorized before the March 18th order are permitted to proceed.

    The Governor’s Executive Order protects tenants against whom these writs of possession – the final document allowing the eviction – that were authorized before the Court’s March 18th order, but which have not yet been issued by a court or served by a sheriff. The Order states that these writs shall not be issued or served. 

    Additionally, in response to concerns that some landlords are attempting to unlawfully evict their tenants by, for example, turning off utilities such as electricity, the Governor’s Executive Order strengthens the enforcement actions that can be taken against landlords who attempt to evict tenants from their home or storefront outside of the legal process.  Because such evictions during this period of emergency would violate the Order, the legal action that could be taken against them if they attempted to do so to up to 6 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. 

    Finally, the Governor’s Order protects tenants who are considered “at will”, meaning they do not have a legal agreement with their landlord, and because of COVID-19 cannot make their rent payment, by requiring a landlord to provide at least 60 days’ notice, rather than 30, to a tenant to leave. If the landlord is attempting to evict those at-will tenants, the Order also extends an eviction notice timeframe from 7 to 30 days.

    The Order does not prevent a tenant from being evicted if the tenant poses a substantial risk to another person, immediate and severe risk to property, or a violation of health, sanitation, fire, housing, or safety laws.  The Order does not relieve any tenant of their legal obligation to pay rent but provides them with more time to make payments. 

    The COVID-19 Rent Relief Program: 

    Established at the urging of Governor Mills, MaineHousing has created a $5 million COVID-19 Rent Relief Program. Each household that meets certain ability to pay requirements may receive a one-time payment of up to $500 in rental assistance paid directly to the landlord. The landlord then agrees not to evict the tenant for nonpayment for the month the payment was issued. Maine’s Community Action Agencies will administer the program locally and may have additional resources available for other needs. The funding, which comes from the Housing Opportunity for Maine (HOME) Fund, will go entirely to Mainers served. No organization will receive administrative fees for program administration. 

    “Housing is a basic human need and during this global pandemic, it is even more important,” said Daniel Brennan, director of MaineHousing. “We recently announced our commitment to no evictions and no foreclosures – and are proud to put our money behind that commitment to help Mainers in need.”

    “We understand that for most people this will not cover their full rent payment for the month,” Brennan continued. “We want to help as many people as possible and to do that, we capped the one-time payment at $500. We also want to be clear – this is not a rent forgiveness program. Renters are still responsible for paying their rent. We encourage tenants to communicate with their landlord and urge everyone to work together to get through this.”

    People who live in subsidized housing, or housing financed by MaineHousing do not qualify for the program, as those programs have other tools available for those impacted by COVID-19. More information, application materials, and commonly asked questions may be found at www.mainehousing.org/covidrent.

     

    Letter to Financial Institutions

    In letters to financial institutions across Maine today, the Governor discouraged them in the strongest terms from initiating residential and commercial foreclosures and asked them to pause any foreclosures in progress. She also urged them to refrain from mailing “notices to cure” to Maine residents and businesses as long as the current federal moratorium or successive moratoria remain in effect, and to continue to work with all borrowers in a proactive way. 

    “I also ask that you and your association pay particular attention to property owners who are landlords – those who are responsible for thousands of rental apartments, homes, retail and other commercial establishments. They deserve flexibility from their lenders because many of their tenants find themselves unable to pay the rent, an issue that we are taking steps to address,” the Governor continued. “These property owners are an important part of the economy that will need time to recover, and they are key to keeping people in their homes during our emergency orders and to keeping small businesses ready to reopen when the crisis has passed.”

     

    Additional Actions

    The actions taken by the Governor today build on her Administration’s work to secure and protect housing for Maine people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    On March 31, Governor Mills issued an Executive Order bolstering General Assistance vouchers for basic necessities, such as housing. Under the Executive Order, all applications for General Assistance will be processed as emergency applications for eligibility purposes, and certain other requirements are waived. The order also allows eligible individuals to reapply after 60 days rather than 30 days for ongoing assistance.

    Additionally, on March 25, 2020, Governor Mills directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to adjust requirements for the Bridging Rental Assistance Program (BRAP) beginning May 1, 2020. BRAP helps clients with serious mental illness, including those who also have substance use disorder, obtain transitional housing. The transition to lower income requirements is expected to be completed by July 1, 2020 for all new and existing BRAP participants.

  • Suit Filed to Protect Ranked-Choice Voting for President in Maine

    April 16, 2020

    AUGUSTA – The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting 2020 today filed suit to protect the new state law that adopted ranked-choice voting for the November presidential election.

    “Maine voters have spoken on ranked-choice voting twice, but some politicians refuse to listen,” said David Farmer, a spokesperson for The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. “The Maine Constitution is clear. You cannot use a veto petition on a law that has already taken effect.”

    Three Maine voters also joined the lawsuit: Republican Clare Payne of Brooksville, Democrat Phil Steele of Portland, and unenrolled voter Frannie Babb of Sumner.

    “Ranked-choice voting for presidential elections is the law of the State of Maine, and the use of the People’s Veto to repeal this law is unconstitutional,” said Clare Payne, a retired attorney and member of the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

    According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Kennebec County Superior Court, the law expanding ranked-choice voting became effective on Jan. 12, 2020. The law expanding ranked-choice voting was passed by the Legislature in 2019 and became law three days after the Legislature returned in January 2020 after Gov. Janet Mills withheld her signature.

    The Maine Constitution limits the use of veto petitions to bills that have not yet become law. The ranked-choice voting law was already in force before opponents filed the application for a veto petition. The Constitution provides a different process for changing existing laws.

    “While we believe the Secretary of State was operating in good faith and with a commitment to err on the side of caution, we do not believe that this veto petition is constitutional,” Farmer said.

    In addition, the lawsuit also contends that the Secretary of State has allowed RCV opponents an inappropriate amount of time to collect signatures, which conflicts with limits on signature gathering for a veto petition.

    Payne added, “Two years ago, during one of the coldest winters in decades, I stood outside in subzero temperatures along with Republicans, Democrats and independents across Maine. Together, we collected more than 80,000 signatures in just 88 days for the veto petition that protected ranked-choice voting.”

  • Maine's Emergency Management Agency Responds to Nor'easter during Covid-19

    Last of winter in Solon, Maine - photo by Ramona du Houx
    04/10/2020 
    AUGUSTA, MAINE
    Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is working with Maine electric utilities to prioritize power restoration after a Nor'easter left more than one third of the state's electric utility customers without power. Wet, heavy snow blanketed the state beginning Thursday afternoon, causing numerous broken tree limbs, fallen power lines and vehicle accidents. "Given the pandemic that we are already dealing with, we recognize how important it is to get primary power restored to our hospitals, healthcare facilities, and food-distribution facilities, many of which are running on back-up sources of power," said MEMA Director Peter Rogers. "We also understand that many Mainers are observing the state's stay-at-home order, making electricity and telecommunications needs even more necessary."

    MEMA is working with electric utilities to secure mutual assistance from other states to help speed up the power restoration process. The State Emergency Operations Center is operational and responding to resource needs of the county emergency management agencies related to Covid-19 as well as the snowstorm. "Given the widespread nature of the damage, we expect this to be a multi-day power restoration effort," said Rogers. "We know this is a difficult time for Mainers and we ask for patience as we work through this challenging event." Mainers are reminded to ensure that alternate heat and power sources are in proper working condition and properly installed. Those who are traveling should use extreme caution as roadways may still be snow covered.

    Extra caution is urged when shoveling snow, as it is wet and heavy and may cause injuries if not handled properly. This includes:

    - Pushing snow instead of lifting it

    - Bending your knees and lifting with your legs

    - Taking frequent breaks

    - Taking care to avoid power lines when removing snow from rooftops
  • Executive Order Mandating Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in Maine

    Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills on April 3, 2020 issued an Executive Order mandating that travelers arriving in Maine, regardless of their state of residency, self-quarantine for 14 days to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Order, which directs the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority, and others to post this guidance at all major points of entry into the State, exempts individuals who are providing essential services as defined by Governor Mills’ March 24 Executive Order.

    “To slow the spread of this deadly virus and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, we must all do our part,” said Governor Mills. “I am mandating that anyone entering Maine self-quarantine for 14 days and abide by Maine’s Stay Healthy at Home Order. These actions will protect the health and safety of everyone.”

    Additionally, the Order instructs visitors not to travel to Maine if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and advises them not to travel to Maine if they are traveling from cities or regions identified as COVID-19 hot spots.

    To deter travel, the Order also suspends lodging operations, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and short-term rentals such as those available through VRBO Airbnb, RV parks and campgrounds, and all public and private camping facilities as well as online reservations effective April 5, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.

    However, the Order states that lodging can be provided for housing vulnerable populations – such as for children in emergency placements, persons at risk of domestic violence, and homeless individuals as permitted by the State – and for accommodations for health care workers or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety, or critical infrastructure.

    While Governor Mills hopes compliance with this Order will be voluntary, it may also be enforced by law enforcement, as necessary. Individual violations of this Order may be charged as a Class E crime subject to a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, any lodging, park, or campground operator who violates this Order may be construed as violating any license, permit or other authorization to operate and be subject to appropriate penalties.

    “We are facing one of the greatest public health crises of the world in more than a century. But if we pull together, we can and will defeat this virus,” said Governor Mills. “Maine is a welcoming state, and we welcome the many servicemembers and medical professionals and others who are coming here to help us. I ask Maine people not to make assumptions about others, and we welcome the cooperation of other visitors and returning residents in quarantining themselves and keeping us all safe in accordance with this order. Let us treat all people in Maine with compassion and kindness. That is how we will get through this.”

    The Order is effective immediately and extends until at least April 30, 2020.

    A copy of the Executive Order is attached. For the latest information and guidance on Maine’s response to COVID-19 please visit coronavirus.maine.gov

  • Governor Mills Issues Stay Healthy at Home Mandate

     

    Governor Mills Issues Stay Healthy at Home Mandate

    Also orders a series of additional requirements to protect public health and safety in the face of COVID-19 

    Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills today issued a series of substantial new mandates to protect public health and safety in the face of COVID-19, including a Stay Healthy at Home directive that requires people living in Maine to stay at home at all times unless for an essential job or an essential personal reason, such as obtaining food, medicine, health care, or other necessary purposes. 

    The Governor also mandated a series of other new restrictions, including: 

    • For essential businesses and operations that remain open, limiting the number of customers in their buildings at any one time, implementing curb-side pickup and delivery options as much as possible, and enforcing U.S. CDC-recommended physical distancing requirements for their customers and employees in and around their facilities. 
    • Prohibiting the use of public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be done from home and limiting the number of people traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for essential activities.
    • Mandating the continued termination of classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020.
    • Mandating that, when out of the home or when at work at an essential business, individuals shall maintain a minimum distance of six feet from other persons.

    The Executive Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2020 and will last until at least April 30, 2020. The Governor may amend, rescind, or renew this timeline at her discretion. The Governor also extended the closure of restaurants and bars statewide for dine-in customers until at least April 30, 2020 to align with today’s Executive Order. 

    “We are in the midst of one of the greatest public health crises this world has seen in more than a century. This virus will continue to sicken people across our state; our cases will only grow, and more people will die. I say this to be direct, to be as honest with you as I can. Because saving lives will depend on us,” said Governor Mills. “I implore you – look to yourself, your family, your friends, your loved ones, your neighbors on the front lines, first responders and health care workers fighting the virus, those who can’t stay home; the children who live around the corner, the farmer who grows your food, the grocer and the pharmacist who sell you goods, the teachers who are missing their kids; the fisherman, the sailor, the truck driver, the janitor, the waitress at your favorite diner; these are the people you are protecting by staying home. This is who you are saving.”                

    The Governor’s Executive Order enacts the following: 

    Stay Healthy at Home Directive 

    Governor Mills’ “Stay Healthy at Home” Executive Order requires that Maine people remain at home unless to leave for an essential job or an essential activity.

    Essential jobs are defined under Governor Mills’ March 24 Executive Order outlining essential businesses and operations. The Governor’s Executive Order today updates the March 24 Executive Order to adopt into effect the most recent Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. 

    Essential personal activities include the following with relation to an individual, their family, household members, pets, or livestock:

    1. Obtaining necessary supplies for household consumption or use, such as groceries, and supplies and equipment needed to work from home, laundry, and products needed to maintain safety, sanitation, and essential maintenance of the home or residence.
    1. Obtaining medication or medical supplies and seeking medical or behavioral health or emergency services.
    1. Providing care, including transportation, of oneself, a family member, friend, pet or livestock in another household or location for essential health and safety activities and to obtain necessary supplies and services.
    1. Traveling to and from an educational institution for purposes of receiving meals or instructional materials for distance learning.
    1. Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running, or biking, but, only in compliance with the social gathering restriction in Executive Order 14 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the U.S. and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    1. Travel required by a law enforcement officer or court order; and
    1. Traveling to and from a federal, State, or local government building for a necessary purpose.

    Travel Restrictions

    The Order prohibits the use of public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be done from home and limits the number of people traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for essential personal activities. 

    Termination of In-Person Instruction at Schools

    Public and private schools and higher education institutions statewide have terminated in-classroom instruction in accordance with the Governor’s March 15 recommendation. The Governor today ordered that all such schools shall continue to cease classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020, or until further Order.

    Restricting Number of People in Essential Stores 

    Governor Mills’ Executive Order restricts the number of people allowed at essential businesses at any one time, mandates that they conduct as much business as possible by curbside order and pick up or delivery to limit in-person contact, and enforce physical distancing in and around their facilities by prominently posting signs at public entrances and on the floor to notify customers to stay six-feet apart. It also requires that they disinfect the handles of every cart and basket between uses, minimize customer handling of unpurchased merchandise and offer separate operating hours for Maine people over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions. 

    Under the Executive order, essential stores with retail spaces of:

    • Less than 7,500 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 5. Examples of such stores include gas stations and convenience and specialty food stores.
    • More than 7,500 and less than 25,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 15. Examples of such stores include stand-alone pharmacies and certain hardware stores.
    • More than 25,000 and less than 50,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 50.  Examples of such stores include mid-sized and locally owned grocery stores.
    • More than 50,000 and less than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 75.  Examples of such stores include chain grocery stores.
    • More than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 100 and install protective shields between customers and checkout clerks as soon as practicable. Examples of such stores include Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.

    Retailers must enforce these limits and a six-foot separation between any customers waiting in lines. Any essential business which violates this Order will be subject to further on-site restrictions or closure until those violations are addressed. These new requirements adjust and mandate prior recommendations from the Governor regarding essential businesses and operations.

    Preemption

    The Order preempts any local ordinance or emergency order of the same subject matter that is less restrictive than or otherwise inconsistent with this Order.

    Enforcement

    This Order shall be enforced by law enforcement as necessary and violations are a class E crime subject to up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. In addition, compliance with Section IV of this Order may also be enforced by government officials who regulate licenses, permits or any other authorization to operate a business or occupy a building. It is the Governor’s hope that compliance will be voluntary, and that formal enforcement will not be necessary. 

  • Executive Order for online training for COVID-19 jobs at Maine’s Community Colleges

    Order allows for greater flexibility to train workers online for critical jobs needed to address the effects of COVID-19

     

    Augusta, MAINE - Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order allowing Maine Quality Centers (MQC) to swiftly address the changing demands in Maine’s job market due to widespread economic disruption caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Governor Mills’ order suspends certain restrictions, on an as-needed basis, on job training funds managed by the Maine Community College System’s MQC program. Suspending those restrictions, such as eligibility and employer matching funds, gives the MQC program more flexibility to rapidly provide free online training to people who have been displaced by the recent effects of COVID-19.

    “Maine’s Community Colleges have always played a critical role in providing training and skills to strengthen our workforce. With the State battling COVID-19, that work is more important than ever,” said Governor Mills. “This Executive Order provides our Community College System with the flexibility it needs to enhance their workforce development efforts and help fill vital jobs, such as those in the health care field, as quickly as possible."

    “We are grateful the governor acted decisively so that Maine Quality Centers can get to work immediately, training people online to meet the incredible, sudden demands of our changing economic landscape,” Maine Community College System President David Daigler said. “So many people have lost their jobs because of COIVD-19. But overnight there is a huge demand for workers in certain jobs, such as medical assisting and pharmaceutical technicians. We need to give people the training and skills they need to step into those jobs as quickly as possible.”

    Maine Quality Centers is working closely with workforce training professionals at all seven of Maine’s community colleges across the state to develop and implement free online training programs. MQC is coordinating its efforts with the Department of Labor and other workforce agencies for the recruitment and screening of participants in the new online programs.

     

  • Maine Records First Death of Individual Who Tested Positive for COVID-19

    03/27/2020 

    AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today reported the first death of an individual who had tested positive for the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was a man in his 80s from Cumberland County. Due to privacy laws, Maine CDC is limited in releasing further details.

    "This is a sad day for the State of Maine. I know I join countless people in extending my condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time," said Governor Janet Mills. "Our state is a family. And while we mourn the loss of a member of our Maine family today, I find strength and solace in knowing that we will support one another and that, together, we will get through this."

    Governor Mills will join Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, for a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today at the Maine Emergency Management Agency, 45 Commerce Drive, Suite 2, Augusta.

    Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Individuals who exhibit those symptoms are advised to contact medical providers before going to a health care facility. Medical providers will make initial determinations about who should be tested.

    Maine people can protect their health by taking the same preventive measures that help to avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. In Maine and nationwide, the public is advised to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, which include avoiding crowds, staying 6 feet away from others, not shaking hands or hugging, and using phones or other media to chat with friends and loved ones rather than meeting face to face.

    As of March 26 at noon, the Maine CDC had recorded 155 positive tests and 3,394 negative tests for COVID-19, and the U.S. CDC was reporting 994 deaths of individuals in the United States who tested positive for COVID-19.

    For more information

  • Maine's Unemployed Should Consider Their Health Insurance Coverage Options As Soon As Possible

    03/25/2020 04:30 PM EDT
    "Mainers who have recently lost their employment should consider their health insurance coverage options as soon as possible, to protect themselves and their families," stated Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa.

    The Superintendent reminded Mainers that individuals and families have 60 days from the day they lose their coverage to apply for a new policy.

    The best place to start is at www.healthcare.gov, which may provide more affordable options than an employer's COBRA plan Cioppa stated. Depending on household size and household income, individuals and families may qualify for subsidized private insurance or free or low-cost coverage through MaineCare. Completing a Marketplace application will provide individuals and family with the information about what type of coverage they qualify for.

    Mainers can get help applying for coverage by contacting Consumers for Affordable Health Care at 800-965-7476. More information is available at www.mainecahc.org/covid-19-coronavirus/.

    In the past two weeks, the Superintendent has issued orders requiring - among other things that private, fully insured plans pay the full costs of testing for COVID-19; and pay the cost of telehealth services (including services by phone) at the same rate as comparable in-person health services.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has made similar provisions for MaineCare recipients. While these additional protections in the face of the current pandemic are critical to slowing the spread of the virus and to protecting our citizens, both physically and financially, individuals need to do what they can to protect themselves from other COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 health risk and costs, said Cioppa.

    My staff is always available Mondays through Fridays, 8am-5pm, to assist Maine consumers with insurance questions and problems.

    Consumers with questions about insurance matters can obtain information and assistance from the Maine Bureau of Insurance by visiting www.maine.gov/insurance, calling 800-300-5000 (TTY call Maine Relay 711), or e-mailing Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.

    Mainers can learn more about MaineCare by visiting www.CoverME.gov/eligibility.