WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A bipartisan bill that seeks to bring some $2 billion in federal aid to Maine cities and towns has the backing of six senators, including Sen. Susan Collins,R-Maine.
The State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act seeks to provide $500 billion to state and local governments that are seeing local revenues plummet amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collins, a cosponsor of the legislation, is hopeful it will be some much-needed support for Maine communities.
“In addition to its tragic health effects, COVID-19 has devastated communities and slammed Maine’s economy. The impact on Maine’s revenues could be among the worst in the nation,” Collins said in a statement Monday.
Maine is one of the most economically vulnerable states in the U.S., according to an analysis by Oxford Economics.
The SMART Act would distribute money to states and municipalities based on infection rates and revenue losses.
“Dramatic revenue shortfalls will force state and local governments to either increase taxes or slash or suspend important services in health care, education, and transportation construction, which are needed now more than ever in the midst of this crisis," Collins said. "The SMART Act would help avoid the worst of these consequences."
Sen. King, I-Maine, also voiced his support of the legislation. King wrote a letter to Senate leadership two weeks ago demanding urging “substantial, additional aid."
“As a former governor, I know that our very economic future depends upon the ability of states, cities, and towns to provide robust assistance for their citizens today and into the future,” King said in a statement. "We must provide states with substantial, additional aid to combat the pandemic and its economic effects.
Under the proposed legislation, $333 million would go to counties and another $333 million would go to local governments. Collins said it would also allow for more flexibility in the use of the $1.25 billion allocated to the state under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
All four members of Maine's Congressional Delegation—Collins, Sen. Angus King, and Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree—met with Gov. Janet Mills via Zoom Monday to discuss the need for federal aid to state and local governments.
“I am grateful to have a close working relationship with Maine’s Congressional Delegation and am thankful for their ongoing efforts to support the State through their work in Congress," Gov. Mills said in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine. “With all states facing reductions in revenue as a result of this virus, a strong Federal partnership will help Maine continue to protect public health and safety and spearhead an economic recovery."
In a formal letter to the delegation, Mills said the state is working to predict the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, by using a 'worst-case stress-test scenario' that estimates a loss of as much as $725 million to the State's General Fund.
Read Gov. Mills' letter to the delegation:
The Governor's Office said that would result in as much as 17-percent reductions across state government, including the following:
- $263.9MM from Education means the state’s contribution to K-12 education drops to approximately 40% from 51.78% resulting in significant impact on local municipalities or drastic reductions to school services and budgets.
- $247.5MM from Health and Human Services means elimination of nearly all optional services and optional eligibility groups from MaineCare.
- $52.6MM reduction to Public Safety means at least a 50% reduction to this Department’s entire budget.
- $87MM reduction means no General Fund appropriation to all of Maine’s Natural Resources agencies.
- $74MM is a 24% reduction to General Fund support to Maine’s higher education network.
House Democrats passed a separate $3 trillion dollar stimulus package late last week, despite Republican opposition. It is expected to fail in the Senate.
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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