AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills expanded the size and types of businesses and nonprofits eligible for business loans under a federally funded coronavirus relief program, her office announced Monday.
About $200 million of the $1.25 billion in federal aid money allocated to Maine under the $2 trillion CARES Act approved by Congress in March was set aside for the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program, a plan that would allow businesses and nonprofits hit hard by the pandemic to recoup some operating costs like payroll and rent. That program came in well under what Mills’ economic recovery committee recommended the state set aside.
The first phase only allowed businesses and nonprofits employing 50 people to apply. The second round — using $95 million in leftover funds from the program — expands that to 250, according to a press release. It will also allow licensed child care and behavioral health organizations and businesses that are less than a year old to apply.
Like other states, Maine has seen tax revenues drop during the pandemic as people stayed home and spent less. The hospitality industry was particularly hard-hit as spending on lodging dropped. The state is struggling with high unemployment, with nearly 57,000 people filing to continue receiving jobless benefits two weeks ago.
But Maine has rebounded quickly, operating at 93 percent of its pre-pandemic economic activity, according to the Moody’s Analytics and CNN Business’ Back-to-Normal Index. That is the best share in the country as Maine maintains one of the lowest virus case rates among states.
About 2,100 businesses submitted eligible applications in the first round, according to the state’s economic development department. It anticipates sending out those first awards, averaging around $45,000, in early October.
Mills has previously said the money will be the extent of state aid to businesses under the CARES Act. She noted the “grants cannot wholly replace or repair the economic damage this pandemic has caused” and called again for Congress to pass additional federal aid.
Applications for the second round of the program will open Wednesday, according to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.