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What we’re watching today
It seems increasingly unlikely that Congress is going to reach a deal on a coronavirus aid package this week. The effects will be immediate for tens of thousands of Mainers who are currently receiving unemployment benefits and will lose the additional $600 in weekly benefits the federal government has been providing since the beginning of April.
Others who stand to lose out include state and municipal governments, who were not included in Senate Republicans’ proposal earlier this week. Maine’s revenue forecasting panel said Wednesday that it projects a $1.4 billion budget shortfall for the state over the next three years.
The political stakes are also high for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is facing the most competitive re-election race of her career later this year. Collins, along with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, introduced a revised version of the Paycheck Protection Program, aiming to provide forgivable loans to small businesses that lost at least 50 percent of their revenue.
Collins was also an early supporter of aid to state and local governments, backing a plan to provide funding for them in May. But it is not clear if fellow Republicans will get on board, and the Maine senator could take a political hit if she is unable to secure any funding.
House Democrats passed their own $3 trillion relief bill in May, but they will have to reach an agreement with Republicans. Current sticking points include liability protections for businesses, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, asking for sweeping protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits, and the $600 in unemployment benefits, which has received criticism from business owners for discouraging workers from returning to the job, although a Yale University study this week found that the expanded benefits did not reduce employment in aggregate.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Donald Trump’s campaign has head start on Joe Biden but hard road to win in Maine,” Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Republicans have touted their ground game and constant presence in battleground areas including Maine as their main advantage in defending [President Donald] Trump in November’s election. Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is just beginning here, but he has opened up a wide polling lead nationally and is winning in many swing states.”
— “Maine lawmakers want Hydro-Quebec to stop trying to influence voters on CMP corridor,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The lawmakers said they are concerned that Hydro-Quebec is exploiting a loophole in Maine ethics laws that they sought to close when the pandemic hit and the Maine Legislature adjourned abruptly in March.”
— “Portland city officials hold ‘listening session’ with members of city’s homeless population,” Fred Bever, Maine Public: “The occupation of City Hall plaza has been going on for a week now, with as many as 60 people sleeping overnight in tents. When homeless protesters and advocates tried to bring their concerns to a special City Council meeting earlier this week, public comment was barred.”
Kanye West isn’t trying to get on Maine’s ballot
We’re going to let the process finish, but only two candidates seem to be vying for unenrolled spots on the presidential ballot here. In Maine’s presidential election, the Republican, Democratic and Green candidates get spots on the November ballot because they are the state’s only formal political parties. Everyone else needs to collect 4,000 signatures.
Those candidates, including Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen, faced a July 25 deadline to get signatures to municipal clerks for certification. In Bangor and Lewiston, signatures were only submitted on behalf of Jorgensen and perennial candidate Rocky de la Fuente.
It means that Kanye West, who paid to get on the ballot in Oklahoma and submitted signatures to qualify in his native state of Illinois, does not appear to be mounting a similar effort in Maine. West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, has said the rapper is struggling with his mental health. His run, one way or another, appears to be fading. Here’s your soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.