MAINE, USA — Congress's final approval of the landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Wednesday sparked immediate reactions from various Maine politicians, leaders, and groups who welcomed the news.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills
“Federal support continues to be critical in Maine’s fight against the pandemic. This relief bill will bolster Maine’s efforts to keep people healthy, get shots into arms, strengthen our economy, get back people back to work, and build a much stronger, better state.
This influx of funding will be a boon to Maine, to our health care institutions, to our unemployed, to education, and to Maine families generally. As we continue to digest the final language, we also look forward to receiving guidance from the Federal government on how these funds may be spent. Ultimately, I expect my Administration will present to the Legislature a biennial budget change package and a Back to Work bond proposal that take into consideration these new funds and that focus our efforts on protecting public health, strengthening our economy, and getting people back to work. I look forward to working with the Legislature to make the wisest choices on using these one-time funds to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people who have been affected by this pandemic.”
The Governor's Office said in a release that the Mills administration is reviewing the final language of the bill and is expecting additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department and various other federal agencies on "the acceptable use of funds."
Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-CD1
“The American Rescue Plan is one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress will ever pass. With this vote, 90% of American households will get a stimulus check; schools and local and state governments will receive the funding they so desperately need to fill in the gaps; renters will be able to stay in their homes; families will be able to put food on the table; more vaccine shots will go into arms; and reliable broadband will become more accessible for rural states like Maine. This bill will also cut child poverty in half and create life-changing opportunity for the next generation and their parents. Without significant action, the economic damage caused by COVID-19 will last well beyond the pandemic. As someone who has long believed that government can and should be a force for good in our lives, I’m proud to have supported this legislation from the beginning. Maine families will feel lasting relief when this bill is signed into law by President Biden.”
Maine U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-CD2
Golden was the only Democrat in the House who voted against the bill on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Golden told NEWS CENTER Maine the congressman is "not available for interviews," regarding his vote.
Ahead of the vote, he released the following statement:
“I will vote against the coronavirus relief legislation passed by the Senate over the weekend.
While the Senate made modest changes to the legislation, some of those changes undermined parts of the bill I do support, and others were insufficient to address my concerns with the overall size and scope of the bill. Although I support the Senate’s effort to reduce the number of wealthier households that will receive stimulus checks, they did not go far enough, and other changes — like removing the minimum wage increase or providing a lower unemployment benefit — undermined policies that I support. I voted for a $15 minimum wage in the last Congress, and given the opportunity, I intend to do so again.
I know there are people who will continue to need assistance getting through the final stages of this pandemic, which is why I have argued that Congress should have addressed their needs with a targeted bill that extends unemployment benefits, funds vaccine distribution, and increases investments in our public health infrastructure.
My vote today should not be construed as an unwillingness to support my constituents and the economy through this pandemic. That very willingness is why I have supported $4 trillion in spending in the last year on food assistance, child care subsidies, relief for renters and homeowners, federal unemployment assistance, and support for small businesses. However, many of these programs are not currently at risk of running out of funding, thanks to the nearly $1 trillion bill we passed in late December, and some of these programs are only just now beginning to be distributed to people in Maine.
When combined with the over $4 trillion we have already spent battling the coronavirus, borrowing and spending hundreds of billions more in excess of meeting the most urgent needs poses a risk to both our economic recovery and the priorities I would like to work with the Biden Administration to achieve, like rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and fixing our broken and unaffordable healthcare system.”
Maine Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King
King and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., helped negotiate including $10 billion in funding for broadband and $7 billion to close the digital divide for students in the relief package. King said at least $100 million of that funding will be heading to Maine.
“As the coronavirus pandemic forced people across the country to reimagine daily life, there was no tool more valuable than an affordable, high-speed broadband connection. Over the last year, a high-speed broadband connection has helped Americans work remotely, engage in distance learning, access telemedicine, and stay connected with family and loved ones. But for too many, slow broadband speeds have blocked them from these essential tools – especially in rural communities, low-income households, and on tribal lands.
The pandemic has cost Americans so much already; we cannot allow another casualty of this virus to be the widening of the digital divide harming our rural and underserved communities. Funds for broadband infrastructure and digital equity will create jobs in the short-term to speed America’s economic recovery, and support long-term economic success for rural communities by allowing Americans to pursue economic and educational success, no matter where they live.”
Maine Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins
Collins opposed the $1.9 trillion package and voted against it in the Senate this past weekend.
In an interview with NEWS CENTER Maine's Pat Callaghan Wednesday afternoon, Collins said, "There are parts of the package that are clearly good for Maine," but "there are also provisions that have absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic."
"I wouldn't say it's good for Maine taxpayers in general, however, because unlike our package that I put forth, which was valued at $650 billion, this is $1.9 trillion, so it's going to increase our debt, it could cause interest rates to rise, and it has the potential of igniting inflation. If that happens, that will not be good for families in Maine," Collins said.
"But there are many provisions of it that I support. I support direct checks, I support the aid for vaccinations and for testing. I support the additional funding for the PPP program to help our small businesses. I support additional help for schools, although there's so much money for schools in here that it won't be spent until the year 2028, so that's not exactly COVID-related."
"So there's some good provisions in here, and there are also provisions that have absolutely nothing to do with the pandemic."
Watch the full interview here:
Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine
“We are excited about the American Rescue Plan and what it will deliver to the people, communities, towns, and state of Maine.
This legislation includes $1,400 stimulus checks, extends unemployment benefits, provides funding for Maine’s state and local governments, and funds COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and contract tracing, among other provisions.
Our Democratic Party strives every day to address the unmet needs of Maine people, especially during this unprecedented pandemic. Some may wish this bill had gone further and others may worry about the implications of certain provisions; our party is not a monolith. We have always been and always will be home to a diverse range of perspectives but unified in our commitment to building a better Maine.
The American Rescue Plan is the first of what will be many legislative accomplishments for President Biden. Under his strong and compassionate leadership, our country is steadily moving out of this brutal pandemic and into a better, more just future.”
President Joe Biden
For weeks now, an overwhelming percentage of Americans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan. Today, with final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard.
Now we move forward with the resources needed to vaccinate the nation. To get $1,400 in direct payments to 85% of American households. To expand coverage and help with lowering health care premiums. To give small businesses what they need to stay open. To expand unemployment insurance, provide food and nutrition assistance. To help keep a roof over people’s heads. To cut child poverty in half.
This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.
I want to thank all the members who voted for it, especially Speaker Pelosi, the finest and most capable speaker in the history of our nation. Once again, she has led into law an historic piece of legislation that addresses a major crisis and lifts up millions of Americans.
On Friday, I look forward to signing the American Rescue Plan into law at the White House – a people’s law at the people’s house.
Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney
“This legislation would provide critical relief to workers struggling in the worst economic and public health crisis we've seen in a century. It would also ensure that we more quickly and equitably come out of this economic crisis. We are pleased that Senator Angus King and Congressman Chellie Pingree and her colleagues understand the urgency to pass such a robust stimulus as it has taken nearly a decade for many working people to fully recover from the Great Recession. We are very disappointed that Congressman Jared Golden and Senator Susan Collins chose not to support this pro-worker legislation. It is crystal clear that working people in Maine and across the country will be significantly better off under this new law.”
Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) Executive Director Garrett Martin
“MECEP thanks Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree for working hard to pass the American Rescue Plan and delivering the relief our state sorely needs. We are equally disappointed that Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Jared Golden opposed the plan; Had they prevailed, Mainers would have been left in the lurch without crucial relief during this unprecedented crisis.
The American Rescue Plan provides much-needed but temporary relief. As we approach the one-year mark of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, it has become increasingly clear that economic recovery isn’t going to happen overnight — particularly for people of color, who have waited longest in past recessions to see the gains from a rebounding job market. We have more work to do to build a more equitable economy that works for everyone. We look forward to working with Maine’s congressional delegation to enact permanent policies that will reduce the longstanding inequities that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.”
Mainers for Accountable Leadership Director Marie Follayttar
“I cannot find a reasonable justification to vote against a bill that provides direct relief to 90% of Mainers, supports our schools and town budgets, funds shots in our arms to inoculate us against a pandemic and is supported by over 70% of the population. Rep. Golden voted against helping the people of Maine. Thank you to Representative Pingree for consistently putting the people of Maine first and for her vote to bring $6 billion in relief to Maine."
Maine Service Employees Association SEIU Local 1989 Vice President Allison Perkins
“For years we’ve been demanding Congress make working families and our communities, not corporations and the wealthy few, the priority. Today our voice was heard with Congress finally passing real and meaningful COVID-19 relief, something we’ve been demanding ever since this pandemic began over a year ago.
Today’s passage of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide much-needed funding to our schools and state, local and tribal governments to ensure the quality services people all across our nation have been counting on to get through the pandemic. It will fund coronavirus vaccine distribution and testing. It will extend the expiring $300 weekly Unemployment Insurance boost through Sept. 6. It will provide for direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans, and it will expand the child tax credit and rental assistance.
This is exactly the kind of help our state and nation needs to get our economy back on track. The American Rescue Plan will help protect and support Maine’s working families and unemployed workers so we can all get through this pandemic.
We appreciate Congresswoman Chellie Pingree fighting tooth and nail for the American Rescue Plan. Congresswoman Pingree provided the leadership our nation desperately needed at this critical time.
Congressman Jared Golden and Senator Susan Collins, however, let all of us down with their votes against the American Rescue Plan. The members of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 are the boots on the ground as essential workers and see unmet needs every day. When the American people needed real COVID relief, Congressman Golden and Senator Collins instead decided to play politics with all of our lives. Maine’s working families deserve better from Congressman Golden and Senator Collins.”
President Biden is expected to sign the American Rescue Plan into law this week. Our fight, however, is not over. To our great disappointment, Congress excluded raising the federal minimum wage to $15 as part of the American Rescue Plan. The minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. That’s inexcusable. Every worker in our great nation deserves to earn a living wage, so we’ll keep fighting all the harder for $15.”
This story will be updated as more statements are released.