Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference at the State House in Augusta alongside Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in this March 12, 2020, file photo. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills gave an independent commission meant to address racism in Maine $50,000 meant to start its work amid rising racial tension on Thursday.

When the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations was established by the Legislature and governor last year, it was initially given just $500 to conduct research and hold public hearings, with the goal of informing the Legislature on policy reform that will help Black, indigenous and people of color communities.

Members sent Mills a series of recommendations last week including a request for more funding, arguing the work needed support after the outcry stemming from the high-profile killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other Black individuals at the hands of police. Those protests have sparked a closer examination of police use of force and racism in schools.

They also noted the disproportionate affect the coronavirus has had on Black communities, something immigrant community leaders say the Mills administration has failed to address.

“In order to sufficiently carry out our role as a body that conducts research, engages the public, advises the government, etc., we will need resources not only to do the work, but to also build our own capacity as commissioners,” members wrote.

Additional recommendations included support for a tribal sovereignty bill, dedicating additional coronavirus relief monies to indigenous and racial populations and more data collection to understand the status of those populations.

Maine used to have an office for minority health that was tasked with some of those goals. It was eliminated under former Gov. Paul LePage and has not been reinstated.

The Mills administration says some of its efforts to combat the pandemic — such as expanded testing, broadening test coverage under MaineCare and providing psychological support through a crisis phone line — have also included measures meant to help those populations.