AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor’s note: You are starting to hear the term ‘flattening the curve’ as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means.
As businesses deemed non-essential continue to struggle during Governor Mills' "Stay-Healthy-at-Home" order, essential services are facing roadblocks during the pandemic as well.
Real estate agents and title companies are closing deals on homes already under contract while working remotely as much as possible. What can't be done at home is documentation needing signatures under a state-appointed notary public. In Maine it must still be done in person, infringing on social distancing requirements.
Danielle DeFelice is a Regional Title Manager at Great East Title Services serving York County. Great East covers Eastern and MidCoast Maine through a Bangor office.
“We are still showing up at closing tables which poses a safety risk,” said DeFelice. "We have taken precautions and have changed the ways we do our closings, but yes this does affect my business and the way we do business.”
The company is headquartered in Bedford, New Hampshire where on March 23rd, Governor Chris Sununu signed an emergency order to allow notaries public to operate remotely during the state of emergency.
The order and phone calls from constituents got the attention of State Sen. Robert Foley (R-Wells).
“This is new territory for all of us,” said Foley. “It’s not just real estate transactions. It’s any sort of legal document that needs to be notarized that this would impact.”
Foley says he has reached out to Governor Janet Mills' Office and was told they are working on it with the help from the Attorney General's Office. After reaching out to the AG's spokesperson Friday, NEWS CENTER Maine did not immediately hear back.
14 states have some form of permanent online remote notarization laws on the books, according to the National Notary Association. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 new states have issued new orders. New Hampshire and Vermont were the only New England states listed.
“I think it is something the legislature should probably look at when this is all over, but from an emergency standpoint I think it would be reasonable for the governor to enact this,” said Foley.
As the spring real estate market heats up, DeFelice is hoping her industry can overcome this hurdle, for business, and the safety of their families.
“I’ve sent emails all day encouraging my local colleagues and realtors to send emails to the Attorney General's Office about this," said DeFelice. "We are just trying to keep everyone safe, and do our jobs at the same time.”
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