Cinderella Project postpones giveaway

The Cinderella Project of Maine’s parent organization, Waldo Community Action Partners, has postponed its planned April 4 prom dress giveaway in Belfast until further notice.

For more information, contact Amanda Simmons at 338-6809 or visit facebook.com/cinderellaprojectmaine.

Unemployment rules relaxed

Maine Department of Labor is implementing new flexible unemployment insurance measures as part of emergency legislation from Gov. Mills and the U.S. Congress.

Individuals who would otherwise be able and available to work, and who maintain contact with their employer, may now be eligible for UI. Anyone who has filed for unemployment since March 15 will be reviewed under these new temporary measures. The legislation temporarily revises eligibility requirement to provide unemployment coverage in situations not typically covered, such as an employer who temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19; an individual who is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over; an individual who must take a leave of absence to care for a dependent who is affected.

Not intended to provide sick leave or short-term disability payments, the legislation waives the work search requirement for individuals still connected to their employer, as well as the one-week waiting period, so benefits will be available sooner. Important for businesses, any benefits paid under these provisions will not affect the employer’s experience rating record.

UI claims can be filed free of charge online or by phone at reemployme.maine.gov/  or 800-593-7660. For more information and resources, visit the department’s COVID-19 page at maine.gov/labor/covid19/ and follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.

Schools and meals

Schools in Waldo County are closed at least until April 27, and school food service employees and bus drivers are delivering meals throughout the county. Northport school children can obtain meals through the RSU 71 program. In addition, The Game Loft in Belfast, is dispensing grab-and-go meals. If you need meals, call your local school district office or stop by 78A Main St. between noon and 2 p.m.

In addition to the Regional School Unit 71 Food Services and Transportation Department preparing and delivering meals to students during the shutdown, school nurses are sending home a bag of groceries every week to each of the district's neediest families.

Last week they sent home 120 bags, totaling 1,250 pounds of food, according to Superintendent Mary Alice McLean.

While the district continues to work with the Good Shepard Food Bank and the Greater Belfast Area Ministerial Food Cupboard, McLean said, "we are still in need to purchase some additional items."

Those interested in making a monetary donation can mail a check payable to CASS Food Pantry to Capt. A. W. Stevens School, Attn: Food Pantry, 31 Elementary Ave., Belfast, ME 04915.

Sweetser is providing instruction and services remotely and has made arrangements to continue to teach students who live in its residences. Sweetser has restricted visits to all of its campuses but parents and guardians of children and adults can connect with residents via telephone or video services by contacting the program or provider directly or calling the PromiseLine at 800-434-3000. Crisis services are still available any time of day or night by calling the Maine Crisis Line at 888-568-1112. Sweetser also offers an Intentional Warm Line at 866-771-9276.

Hospital visitation

Waldo County General Hospital is not allowing visitors except in special circumstances, and then only one person at a time in the following areas:

• Pediatrics

• Obstetrics

• Day Surgery

• End of Life

• Extraordinary circumstances

• Patient discharges (one escort)

• Emergency department, ambulatory settings and outpatient procedural areas (one escort)

For all of these exceptions, only one person over the age of 18 may be on the WCGH campus to visit/escort/accept discharge of a patient. Visitors will be screened as they enter and will be required to perform hand hygiene prior to entering and upon leaving the patient’s room or care area, and, to the extent possible, asked to remain at least 6 feet from the patient at all times.

Courts

The Maine Judicial Branch has reduced operations in courthouses throughout the state. The courthouses will remain open to ensure access for those who request protection from personal violence and whose liberty interests are at stake, ensuring that the courts are sufficiently staffed to respond to those matters. Hours of operation can be found on the judicial branch website at courts.maine.gov/maine_courts/schedules/closings.shtml.

Veterans

To view the most recent operational status update for the VA Maine Healthcare System, visit maine.va.gov/.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has postponed Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice, including events that were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the canceled March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance.

VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and commonsense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

Island travel

The Islesboro Select Board asks that residents limit trips off the island, maintain hand hygiene — especially upon returning home, practice social distancing when away from home, and to get outside for solitary exercise.

It requests that islanders travel to and from the mainland "for essential reasons only," and to think carefully about what is "essential." Commuters are asked to follow Maine State Ferry guidelines and to maintain social distancing from others. In addition, mainlanders who suspect that they may have been exposed to the virus are asked not to come to Islesboro. The full resolution can be read on the town website.

State parks

Because of problems with overcrowding, certain coastal state parks are now closed.

The Bureau of Parks and Lands announced Friday that the following Midcoast and Southern Maine coastal State Parks and beaches are closed until April 8:

Reid State Park, Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham, Fort Baldwin, Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, Scarborough Beach State Park, Ferry Beach State Park, and Mackworth Island.

Note that the closure could be extended, depending on the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

G.E.A.R. parent resources

G.E.A.R. Parent Network staff members are available via email, phone and text to support parents who need help. Call 800-264-9224 to receive emotional support or mental health resource information. Upcoming workshop webinars are listed at https://crisisandcounseling.org/gear_trainings.

Jessica Hall, regional parent support coordinator for Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, said, “Fear and anxiety about the unknown can cause strong emotions in both adults and children” and noted that stress can add to or cause:

  • Changes in sleep/eating patterns.
  • Cause concerns about your own health and health of your loved one.s
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Note that children may respond differently:

  • Excessive crying or irritation.
  • Behaviors that they have outgrown may return.
  • Excessive worrying.
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain.

Hall recommends making time to talk together as a family and answer questions they may have.

  • Reassure children that they are safe and it’s OK to feel upset; share with them how you deal with stress and let them learn from you.
  • Limit exposure to news/social media. Kids can misinterpret what they hear and it can be frightening to them.
  • Keep with regular routines as much as possible; create schedules for learning activities or fun relaxing activities.

Take the positives of this time and make the best of it! We now have time with our families, a time to reconnect!

  • Time to strengthen bonds, and feel closer to one another.
  • Time to create memories, e.g., bake cookies, do art projects, build a fort or have a PJ day at home.
  • Get outside (if possible) for a nature walk, collect pine cones, bird watch.

Feel free to contact any G.E.A.R staff when you need someone to talk to: https://crisisandcounseling.org/gear_staff.

Autism Society of Maine also offers resources for families including a webpage with ideas, craft projects, and virtual sites to visit while isolated at home. The society also offers a social story on the coronavirus to help explain it to children with autism. Visit asmonline.org/News/107/Article/8686.

For a list of resources for talking with children about coronavirus, visit FREDLA.org. According to FREDLA, “For families caring for a child, youth or young adult with mental health needs, changes in schedules, not seeing friends and worry about the possibility of getting sick may heighten anxiety.”

Medical support

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has taken a number of steps to ensure access to critical services and benefits for Maine people. They include supporting MaineCare members through the implementation of emergency rules that:

  • Waive all co-pays for prescriptions, office visits, emergency department visits, radiology and lab services
  • Allow early refills of prescriptions
  • Allow providers to extend 34-day supply maximums on brand prescriptions (MaineCare already allows 90-day supplies of generic prescriptions)
  • Waive initial prior authorization requirements for asthma and for immune-related drugs
  • Lengthen the period that prior authorization applies for prescription medications
  • Lengthen the period that prior authorization applies for certain durable medical equipment, such as home oxygen therapy, glucose test strips, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) supplies for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, those with pending test results who are in self-isolation, and those in a high-risk category for infection
  • Extend the amount of time that home health providers have to submit plans of care from within five business days to within 30 business days from the start of services

In addition to these changes, the department now allows prescribing through telehealth.

No utility disconnections

Maine's Public Utilities Commission has directed that no utilities will be disconnected during the civil state of emergency declared by Gov. Mills.

All electric transmission and distribution utilities, natural gas utilities, water utilities, and telephone Providers of Last Resort (POLR) service will not issue disconnection notices or disconnect service for any residential or business customers.

Low-interest loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration and Finance Authority of Maine are offering financial help.

SBA is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus.

These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75%.

For more information, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Finance Authority of Maine has established Relief Loan Programs available to eligible Maine businesses and individuals/employees who experience hardships because of COVID-19.

For lenders, a Lender Insurance Program provides commercial loan insurance of 50%-75% to lenders who make loans to Maine businesses experiencing interruption or hardship due to COVID-19.

For businesses, an Interim SBA Finance Loan Program provides FAME Direct Loans of up to $100,000 with special terms available to eligible borrowers who provide proof of commitment for SBA financing. The FAME loan would be originated for use to the business owner until the SBA loan is funded. The SBA loan would then pay off the FAME loan.

A Business Direct Loan Program provides FAME Direct Loans of up to $50,000 with special terms available to Maine-based businesses experiencing interruption or hardship because of COVID-19.

For individuals/employees, a Consumer Loan Program provides no- to low-interest consumer loans through a loan guarantee program involving Maine’s banks, credit unions, and FAME. Interested borrowers should contact their local bank or credit union (not FAME) to see if the lender is offering this program and to apply.

The program offers loans of up to $5,000 (minus any unemployment benefits received by borrower). A borrower may apply for up to three loans, one per each 30-day period.