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Maine Economic Recovery Committee recommendations could require additional funding

Shoppers leave a clothing shop that now also sells masks to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Portland, Maine.

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(The Center Square) – A recent report from the Maine Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) is urging Gov. Janet Mills to disburse more than $1 billion to support the state economy.

The report recommends $497 million to support Maine people, $430 million to support Maine employers, and $165 million to invest in Maine’s infrastructure.

In the “support Maine people” category, $300 million is recommended for prekindergarten through high school education, but the state has already given those grades $165 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funding, the Maine Wire reported. It also suggests $45 million for child care programs, which also have received $8.4 million from the CARES Act.

The largest allocation would be a $350 million grant fund to help struggling Maine businesses and nonprofits.

The report does not include a recommendation to reform tax regulation to eliminate state taxes on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

How all of the report’s recommendations would be funded is not clear. While Maine still has about $800 million remaining from its $1.25 billion CARES Act allocation, if the schools and child care distributions are counted, another $126.6 million would cover everything.

The ERC co-chairs, Thomas College President Laurie Lachance and Tilson CEO Josh Broder, acknowledge in a letter accompanying the report that more funding will be needed.

“The $1.25 billion from the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds are insufficient to meet identified needs; expanded federal unemployment benefits may expire this month; gloomy state and local revenue forecasts offer few assurances. These factors make Maine’s economic stability dependent on further federal action,” the letter states.

The ERC will next examine how to further develop the state’s economy, the letter states.

“If we can stabilize our economy, we are confident in Maine’s ability to focus on the hard work needed to recover and grow again,” the letter states. “This is where the ERC will turn its attention next. Later this month, we will start charting how Maine sustains and grows its economy in accordance with the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy released last year. We look forward to identifying bold strategies and targeted investments to accelerate Maine’s recovery.”

That report is due to be submitted by Dec. 1.

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