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Mills administration commits final $6.8M of $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding

The final CRF commitment comes ahead of the December 30 expiration of CRF funding and as Congress considers additional COVID-19 relief for the American people.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills and Department of Administrative and Financial Services Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa announced Friday that the administration has committed all of Maine’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF). 

The final commitment of $6.8 million will fund the public-private partnership with Westbrook-based IDEXX Laboratories for COVID-19 testing. This partnership has more than quadrupled Maine’s capacity for detecting the virus. The final CRF commitment comes ahead of the December 30, 2020 expiration of CRF funding and as Congress considers additional COVID-19 relief for the American people.

Federal legislation stipulates that all CRF expenses be incurred by December 30, 2020, with a three-month period available beyond that date for the issuance of payments. The Mills administration committed $35 million in CRF for the local match required on FEMA Major Disaster Declaration grants, approvals for which are delayed and may not be available prior to the CRF deadline. As is the case in jurisdictions across the nation, the Mills administration is consistently monitoring the expenditures of these committed funds, which may be impacted by factors such as global supply chain bottlenecks and other pandemic-induced availability concerns. Should these issues prevent the incurring of expenses by month’s end, the Mills administration says it may have to take steps to recommit CRF to other purposes.

“Maine’s response to COVID-19, including our game-changing partnership with IDEXX and our small business recovery, education and housing grants, would not have been possible without Federal relief,” Mills said. “With all of our CRF funding committed and scheduled to sunset at the end of this month, and with the virus spreading dangerously in Maine and across the country, I urge Congress to provide continued pandemic relief for Maine people and to offer flexibility for any existing funds. I am grateful to Maine’s Congressional Delegation for their advocacy and help and will continue to work closely with them.”

RELATED: Gov. Mills: Face coverings must now be worn in public settings regardless of physical distance

The Mills administration committed nearly half of the state’s federal CRF to support Maine’s small businesses and workers. For example, the administration provided $294 million to bolster the Unemployment Trust Fund and provided more than $240 million in economic recovery grants to help sustain business operations. Furthermore, the administration is providing a one-time payment of $600 to Maine people who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic as Federal unemployment benefits are poised to expire.

The administration also provided significant funding to Maine’s public school systems to help them provide safe in-person learning opportunities and to adjust to hybrid- or fully remote-learning options, including purchasing remote learning devices for students and partnering with Internet Service Providers to expand broadband.

RELATED: Mills launches $40M grant program to support Maine tourism, hospitality, and small businesses

The administration also provided funding to Maine’s public school systems to help them provide safe in-person learning opportunities and to adjust to hybrid- or fully remote-learning options, including purchasing remote learning devices for students and partnering with internet service providers to expand broadband. 

“Amid changing guidance from the U.S. Treasury on CRF-eligible activities, global supply chain backlogs, and expiration of funding later this month well ahead of any clear victory against the virus, we continue to monitor CRF commitments and will readjust and drawdown funds through to the end as necessary,” Figueroa said. “Maine’s strong response to this virus would not have been possible if not for Federal funds. As our fight against COVID-19 continues, I join Governor Mills in urging Congress to provide more Federal relief to Maine – and to all states across the nation – and to provide flexibility for funding already awarded.”

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“Since the beginning of this public health and economic crisis, we have worked closely with Governor Mills to help ensure that the State of Maine has the resources it requires to help respond to COVID-19, including providing more than $8 billion in federal funding to protect Mainers’ health and jobs,” Maine's congressional delegation said in a joint statement. “It is our highest priority to pass an additional federal relief package to support families, small businesses, employees, students, and health care providers who are continuing to face severe challenges during this persistent pandemic. As cases rise and federal aid programs expire, creating tremendous uncertainty for communities during the holiday season, the need to act now is urgent. We remain united in our efforts to advocate for Maine, and we are continuing to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide additional assistance to support the health and safety of Mainers and our economy.”

Additionally, Maine invested in public health and safety, including the procurement of PPE; health and safety within congregate living settings; grants for healthcare providers and for municipalities to deploy public health and prevention programs; child care for frontline workers; and pandemic assistance for people who are homeless, minorities, food insecure, and otherwise marginalized. While Maine will use other federal monies to fund the partnership with IDEXX, additional CRF funding is critical to advancing the full set of actions associated with the state’s comprehensive COVID-19 response.

“As has been the case across the nation, COVID-19 has created an unprecedented financial crisis for businesses in Maine – especially in high customer service industries like tourism and the restaurant industry,” Heather Johnson, Commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, said. “DECD is facilitating more than $240 million in grant programs to Maine’s small businesses, funded completely through CRF, allowing businesses to determine their most urgent needs during these unprecedented times. These hardships will not disappear with the new year and continued funding from Congress will be instrumental in Maine’s economic recovery.”

RELATED: Mills Administration announces one-time relief payment for Mainers unemployed due to COVID-19

“As cases rise, hospitalizations increase and medical staff are challenged, the need for continued relief from Congress for testing, contact tracing, other activity cannot be overstated,” Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. “Moreover, while we stand ready to begin distributing COVID-19 vaccine, Federal officials have previously indicated that they will not offer states additional funding. Federal funding is vital to the success of this monumental undertaking in Maine and across the country.”

CRF is one component of the CARES Act and part of the $7.4 billion in federal COVID-19 support to Maine and Maine families over the last nine months. An accounting of the full $1.25 billion of CRF commitments made by the administration can be found here.