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$800 million economic recovery plan unveiled by Maine hospitality and tourism officials

The plan would help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic keep their doors open and pay basic operating costs including rent, mortgage, and payroll.
Credit: Photo: Getty Images

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine's hospitality, tourism, and retail organizations have come together to ask Gov. Janet Mills to allocate $800 million to help small businesses in Maine's biggest sectors.

On Friday, the Maine Hospitality and Tourism Alliance launched the Maine Hospitality, Tourism & Retail Recovery Plan, a multi-phased relief proposal that allots Emergency Action Grants to affected small businesses across the state.

The plan would help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic keep their doors open and pay basic operating costs including rent, mortgage, and payroll.

The plan, created by HospitalityMaine, Maine Tourism Association, and the Retail Association of Maine, provides employee support for childcare and transportation. It also increases funding for tourism promotion, workforce development, and disadvantaged business startups and offers technical assistance for hotels and restaurants to rebuild and retool in the new COVID economy.

“Due to the devastation the state’s restrictions are causing, this emergency funding is crucial for business survival,” Steve Hewins, CEO of HospitalityMaine, said in a statement. "Maine's hospitality industry is stepping up and acting quickly to help our inns and restaurants in this emergency so they can thrive in the future."

Mills released a statement in response to the proposed plan, saying she welcomes proposals and "will be asking my Economic Recovery Committee to take them into consideration as we work to mitigate the damage to Maine’s economy caused by COVID-19 and as we consider ways to jumpstart economic recovery."

The Alliance proposes that the funding should come from the $1.25 billion Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding that was disbursed to Maine.

Curtis Picard, CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said, "Maine's retail, tourism, and hospitality sector employ nearly 150,000 Mainers. According to the Maine Department of Labor, retail dropped 12,000 jobs between February and April and Leisure and Hospitality lost 42,600 jobs. Sadly, more than half of the jobs lost in Maine have come from our industries. We need bold action to make sure these industries are around in 2021."

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The plan invests $400 million to businesses with 50 current full-time employees or less. These businesses struggled with accessing federal programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). 

Hospitality, retail, and tourism businesses with more than 50 full-time employees would divvy up $300 million, and $10 million in grants would be reserved for 501C-6 organizations that service the hospitality, tourism, and retail sectors.

"Tourism touches all aspects of our communities, from schools, real estate, support businesses like hardware stores and car dealerships, and most importantly our quality of life. Restarting Maine’s economy begins with restarting travel," Tony Cameron, Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Tourism Association, said. "This plan will help businesses survive this year so they can recover next year."

Mills also said the proposal underscores the need for Congress and President Trump to provide more aid to states, which she says all governors have repeatedly advocated for. 

Read the complete plan here:

Mills' full statement:

“COVID-19 has hit Maine’s tourism industry hard and has caused people from across the country to question whether it is safe to travel. That is why my Administration has worked hard to put forward a testing alternative that protects the health of Maine people, visitors, and employees and that allows us to market Maine as a safe place to visit. Just yesterday, I received a message from a person in Maine who was initially frustrated by the proposal, but who told me that, in the end, it may have saved the life of her family member. Here is what she wrote to me:

‘My husband works in healthcare administration in Maryland. Save for FaceTime, I haven’t seen him since early March. We planned that he would drive from Maryland tomorrow (Friday) to Maine. We were upset with Gov. Mills’ announcement on Monday, concerned that he wouldn’t be ‘let into’ the state so he proactively took a COVID-19 test early Tuesday. He learned just two hours ago that he’s COVID positive. He is asymptomatic and will take an antibody test later today. This was a clear shot across the bow for our family as we have an extended “familial bubble” that includes an immuno-compromised family member which may have led to devastating consequences. You have my permission to cite this experience but respectfully request that you not identify our family.’

Our plan is working, and our Administration is working hard to protect the health of Maine people and ensure that our state is a safe place for people to visit this summer. I, too, am deeply concerned about our economy. But I can think of nothing more devastating than an outbreak or resurgence of this deadly untreatable virus during the height of tourism season. Nothing would be worse for our economy and for the tourism industry, in particular. I want visitors, staff and the public to know that they are protected by every means possible.

I welcome proposals from all sectors of our economy regarding business losses and will be asking my Economic Recovery Committee to take them into consideration as we work to mitigate the damage to Maine’s economy caused by COVID-19 and as we consider ways to jumpstart economic recovery. The Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee is also meeting and collaborating with my Administration on potential uses of the coronavirus relief funds, and I hope they will take these proposals into consideration as well.

This proposal also underscores the need for Congress and the President to provide greater aid to the states, which all governors have repeatedly advocated for, as the repercussions of this virus continue to reverberate across every sector of our economy, from commercial fishing, to agriculture, to health care, and many more. As the COVID-19 pandemic affects every part of our economy in every region and every state in the nation, this aid will be crucial in jumpstarting a broader economic recovery, and I know Maine’s Congressional Delegation will continue to fight for it.”

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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