AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills committed the last of Maine’s $1.25 billion share of a March federal coronavirus relief bill on Friday, just weeks before the funding is set to expire as future aid is uncertain.
A remaining $6.8 million will expand the state’s testing partnership with IDEXX Laboratories in Westbrook, according to a news release from the state’s budget office. That partnership has been credited with vastly expanding Maine’s testing capabilities.
The news comes as virus cases continue to climb in the state and nation, with 346 new cases reported Friday and four additional deaths. Even as testing increases, it has become difficult for the state to effectively track where new virus cases are coming from, and Maine has scaled back its contact tracing.
States have until Dec. 30 to incur expenses covered by the CARES Act approved by Congress in March and three months afterwards to dole those payments out. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, indicated Thursday that negotiations over the latest proposal had stalled over disagreements over state and local aid and a business liability shield.
The majority of the federal aid in Maine has been put towards business relief after the Democratic governor authorized a third round of grants last month. This week, she committed $25.2 million for a one-time $600 payment to unemployed Mainers who either qualified for a federal expanded benefits program after Nov. 14 or if they had an established coronavirus-related unemployment claim and file in the first three weeks of December.
Department of Administrative and Financial Services Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa said in the announcement that the state’s commitments may change in the following weeks as new guidance on how virus aid money can be sent.