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Governor developing plan for economy as businesses offer advice amid coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

Many expected Gov. Mills to release a plan for the economy amid the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic Thursday but she did not

AUGUSTA, Maine — Governor Janet Mills moved closer Monday to detailing a plan for allowing Maine businesses to reopen, and relaxing restrictions on Maine residents. 

Mills is well aware that thousands of Mainers want her to ease off restrictions and get businesses open again. But just as many people, and likely more, have indicated they are more worried about being protected from the COVID 19 virus. The Governor is trying to decide on a plan to achieve both, and is getting a lot of advice from the businesses feeling the pain.

With Maine’s economy struggling, and much of it closed, the Retail Association of Maine and the Grocers Association surveyed their members on the issue, to help provide information to the Governor.

"One of the things we asked was rough number of employees,” said Curtis Picard of the Retail Association. 

“Many of those responding show a 40% reduction in staff right now.”

Picard said they’ve been sharing that information with the Mills Administration, to make the case for letting more businesses open up. He said retailers know there will still need to be some restrictions to protect people, even as “non-essential” businesses are allowed to open up. 

“They recognize we are all in this together, wish it wasn’t this way but it is this this way,” he said. 

“So they are willing to do their part and as I said, its not a matter of flipping a switch but likely there will be several stages in this.”

At the briefing, Mills said she is seekin information from both business and public health experts, and from regular Maine pople, on how to meet both needed—health and the economy.

“We are asking questions, like ‘can the (business) activity be conducted in a manner that promotes social distancing and minimizes public interaction? What is the impact of that business on movement or travel?’ Its something I’m doing with other New England governors. Will it encourage people to travel in or to our state from other, high incident states, risking spread of the virus??”

Mills said she wants Maine residents to email her office with their ideas on how to safely start reopening businesses/ At this point there is no deadline for that plan to be complete. However, Mills herself faces a deadline. Her current “Stay Safe at Home” order will expire at the end of the month. The Governor Thursday would not say if she plans to end the stay at home order or extend it, saying that is one of many questions about reopening the economy that need to be answered.

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