After months of partisan fighting, President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package on Sunday, the first comprehensive relief bill since March.
The legislation, supported by all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation, is expected to send billions of dollars into Maine, but the timeline for its arrival is unclear. Gov. Janet Mills’ administration was evaluating the bill on Monday to determine how much the state would get and when, a spokesperson said.
In addition to unemployment benefits and small business loans, Maine is expected to see significant funding for rental relief and education, among other areas. Here is a breakdown of the money that will be flowing into Maine in the coming months.
$200 million in rental relief
The stimulus bill is set to boost funding for the state’s rental relief program by more than eightfold. That money could help protect struggling renters when federal eviction protections expire at the end of January.
The stimulus package offered a total of $25 billion in rental relief, with a funding formula based on population but with a minimum sum of $200 million per state. That benefits smaller states like Maine, which are getting more assistance on a per capita basis.
The state’s rental relief program has been in high demand, with more than 20,000 applications so far, according to MaineHousing. Mills allocated $23 million for that program, about $15 million of which had been spent as of earlier this month. The additional federal funding could provide a significant boost to renters who have sought assistance this year or allow the state to broaden the program requirements to help more families.
Hundreds of millions for education and child care
The relief package includes about $82 billion in funding for education, allocated across several different programs to support K-12 education as well as colleges and universities. It also includes $10 billion for child care.
As part of that, Maine could receive as much as $175 million for K-12 schools, four times what the state’s share of education funding from the March stimulus, according to an estimate from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. That money can be used in a variety of ways, including improving ventilation, technology to support remote teaching, summer school programs and other needs identified by school principals.
Maine’s colleges and universities, which received $41 million in funding from the March stimulus package, will likely get more this time, as overall funding for higher education increased to $23 billion, up from $14 billion in March. As with the March bill, colleges and universities are required to distribute at least half of the funding they receive to struggling students.
Enhanced unemployment benefits
The bill extends two federal unemployment programs and offers an additional $300 per week to all individuals receiving state or federal jobless benefits. That will help the more than 44,000 Mainers. The extension lasts 11 weeks, with an additional three weeks available for some claimants.
The benefits will not be immediate — the Maine Department of Labor said Monday that payments from the two new programs would be delayed at least a week while the state awaits instructions from the federal government.
More money for food assistance
The relief bill included a 15 percent increase in monthly food assistance, or SNAP benefits, from January through June. As of early November, about 148,000 Mainers — more than one in 10 residents — were enrolled in the food assistance program, according to data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Notably, the relief package also modifies SNAP eligibility such that income from unemployment benefits does not disqualify applicants. That could help tens of thousands of jobless Mainers, especially single adults who are most likely to be disqualified from food aid due to income from unemployment benefits.
Stimulus checks for about 750,000 Mainers
Stimulus checks are smaller than they were in the March bill, with payments of $600 for adults and child dependents, though eligibility is similar. Adult dependents are excluded and the payments start to phase out for individuals who earned more than $75,000 in 2019.
Stimulus checks could start going out as soon as later this week, the Washington Post reported Monday. The roughly 750,000 Mainers who received a payment earlier this year should expect to get another one. Those who did not in the first round are unlikely to get one this time.
More money for small businesses
The bill allocates $284 billion for another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan program championed by Sen. Susan Collins. But the program requirements are tighter, with only businesses with fewer than 300 employees — down from 500 — that can show a revenue loss of at least 25 percent during one quarter of 2020 will be eligible for funding.
It is not clear how many of the more than 28,000 Maine businesses that received loans during the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program will be eligible for a second loan. While most hospitality businesses likely saw enough of a revenue drop to apply, the highest share of loans in Maine in the first round went to construction businesses and professional services such as law firms that might not have seen the same kind of losses. However, some nonprofits that were not eligible for the first round of loans will be eligible this time around.
The bill also allocates $15 billion for grants of up to $10 million for concert venues, independent movie theaters and museums through a program called “Shuttered Venue Operator Grants.”
Millions of dollars for the fishing and logging industries
Fishermen and loggers will have the chance to apply for additional relief funding earmarked for their industries. The bill allocates an additional $300 million in funding for a disaster assistance program for fishermen and $200 million for logging businesses that can show a revenue loss of 10 percent this year compared to last.
Additional funding for testing and vaccine distribution
The bill includes additional funding for the federal government to buy vaccines as well as $8 billion to states for vaccine distribution and $20 billion to help states with testing and contact tracing. Maine will receive a small share of that.
Other miscellaneous funding
The relief bill includes funding for a range of other programs, of which Maine will receive a small portion. That includes $28 billion for transit, $7 billion for broadband and $4 billion for grants for substance abuse and mental health services.