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Gov. Mills announces plan to spend $1 billion in federal aid

May 04, 2021

Augusta — Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, her administration’s proposal to invest more than $1 billion in discretionary federal relief funds allocated to Maine under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Mills Administration will present the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to the Legislature. By offering the plan now, the governor said she hopes to engage in a "robust, bipartisan discussion with the Legislature about the transformational opportunity presented by the funds, take into consideration the forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury, and prepare for swift and decisive action to continue Maine’s economic recovery and achieve long-term growth for Maine people, businesses and communities."

Funding under the plan can be used through 2024.

According to a news release from the Governor's Office, the governor’s plan makes historic investments in unaddressed needs and longstanding challenges to achieve three goals: 1) immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; 2) long-term economic growth for Maine; and 3) infrastructure revitalization.

The plan is aimed at Maine small businesses and heritage industries, encouraging new businesses and job creation through innovation and entrepreneurship, and investing in essential infrastructure — broadly defined as roads and bridges, broadband, affordable housing, and child care — to keep and attract young families.

The plan draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the state’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming these best-made plans into real action to improve the lives of our people and to strengthen the economy.

“This federal funding represents an unprecedented opportunity to address the longstanding challenges that have constrained our state’s ability to thrive over the years. By encouraging innovative small business growth, investing in our workforce, and building essential infrastructure, like housing, child care and broadband, we can accelerate our recovery from the pandemic and build a stronger, more prosperous Maine,” Gov. Mills said in the announcement. “This plan will help us ensure that Maine is renowned as a place where you can get a good education, have a rewarding career that pays well, raise a happy and healthy family, and live comfortably in a community that you love.”

“By emphasizing investments in economic recovery, broadband, childcare, innovation and workforce development, Gov. Mills has set the right priorities to support Maine’s people, while creating a strong foundation for economic growth,” said Joshua Broder, CEO of Tilson, and Laurie Lachance, President of Thomas College, co-chairs of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee in the news release. “We commend the governor and her administration for their dedicated attention to the issues facing Maine’s families and communities, and for bringing forth bold initiatives to restore Maine’s economic trajectory, grow jobs in our state, and further establish Maine as among the nation’s best places to live and work.”

“The Maine Jobs & Recovery plan balances short term economic need with an ability to invest in long term economic growth and good jobs,” said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “This is an investment in talent and innovation, which are critical as we move forward in the growth of Maine’s economy.  The state is fortunate to have a roadmap for the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan in the 10-Year Strategic Plan along with the recommendations of the Economic Recovery Committee.”

“As Maine continues to work through the pandemic and into full economic recovery, it is fortuitous that Gov. Mills had already established a10-year Economic Development Strategy to grow the state’s economy, coupled with the Economic Recovery Committee’s recommendations to guide our investments,” said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Using these documents as our road map, the Maine State Chamber supports the governor’s proposal for use of the American Recovery Act funds, because they represent short-term investments that will result in long-term gains to Maine employers and their employees.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep inequalities of income, wealth and power that cut along lines of race, class, gender and geography,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “As we forge Maine’s economic recovery we must build back better by growing our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, by addressing these deep inequalities head on and by being laser focused on creating high quality, union jobs.  We applaud the proposed investments in apprenticeship and worker training, housing, childcare, broadband, fixing our state parks and rebuilding Maine’s infrastructure.”

“State government has an important role to play ensuring that Maine recovers faster from the pandemic and 2020 economic downturn than it did after the Great Recession, and recovers in a way that engages all Mainers,” said Keith Bisson, president of CEI, and Betsy Biemann, CEO of CEI, and member of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee. “We are pleased that the governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan includes key investments that will help recover and grow Maine’s economy and enable Maine people to thrive. To be successful Maine must invest more in a sustainable food economy, child care and broadband infrastructure, especially in rural areas and this package is an important indicator of our state’s values and tremendous opportunities.”

“Gov. Mills' Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan includes investment priorities for local government,” said James Bennett, Maine Municipal Association vice president, Legislative Policy Committee chair, and Biddeford city manager. “Investment in roads, bridges and broadband will help Maine communities grow and prosper. Investments in wastewater and drinking programs and climate adaptation support our efforts to protect the natural resources that make Maine a vacation destination and support our heritage businesses. Investments in home weatherization and municipal energy efficiency will help residents cut heating costs and help communities make the best use of taxpayer resources. Maine municipal officials support these initiatives in the proposal as a means for sustaining Maine's economic vitality."

In total, the American Rescue Plan Act invests approximately $4.5 billion in Maine. Of this $4.5 billion, Congress has directly committed nearly $3.2 billion to various recovery efforts, including significant support for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, enhanced unemployment benefits, stimulus payments to families, and funds for businesses, counties and municipalities, education, behavioral health, child care, and more.

The remaining $1.13 billion is allocated to the state of to Maine to respond to the pandemic and support economic recovery.  The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan aims to complement, not duplicate, funding already specifically committed by Congress to other recovery efforts.

To that same end, the Mills Administration is also preparing a bond proposal and a supplemental budget, or “part two budget,” proposal for the next biennium. While these proposals are different and will be offered separately, they aim to complement one another to maximize impact and ensure robust and widespread economic recovery and growth.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is attached and is outlined below:

Goal 1: Immediate Economic Recovery ($260M)

  • Provide Recovery Grants & Loan Guarantees ($80M):
  • Invest in Heritage Industries ($50M):
  • Lower Health Care Costs for Small Businesses ($39M)
  • Replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund ($80M)
  • Sustain New Businesses and Entrepreneurs ($8M)
  • Encourage Business Diversity ($3M)

Goal 2: Long-term Economic Growth ($305M)

Make Strategic Investments for Future Prosperity

  • Jumpstart Innovation ($80M)
  • Launch Health Workforce Initiative ($15M)
  • Create Clean Energy Partnerships: ($8M)
  • Establish A Domestic Trade Program ($15M)

Expand and Strengthen Maine’s Workforce

  • Attract and Retain Workers ($18M)
  • Expand the Maine Career Exploration Program ($28M)
  • Create the Remote Worker Welcome Program ($5M)
  • Train Workers Through Maine’s CTEs & Higher Education Systems ($105M)
  • Advance Equity ($8M)
  • Connect Workers to Job Opportunities ($15M)

Regulatory Reform

  • Increase Licensing Efficiency ($8M)

Goal 3: Infrastructure Revitalization ($547M)

Build Out Family Infrastructure:

  • Establish the Maine Connectivity Authority to Achieve Universally Available Broadband ($150M)
  • Build More Affordable Housing for Maine’s Workforce ($50M)
  • Save Money Through Energy Efficiency ($50M)
  • Expand Childcare & Early Childhood Infrastructure ($20M)

Invest in Transportation Improvements:

  • Fix Maine Roads and Bridges Through the 2021 Capital Work Plan ($50M)
  • Protect Infrastructure from Climate Change ($20M)
  • Launch A Workforce Transportation Pilot ($5M)
  • Expand Municipal and Public EV Charging ($8M)

Invest in Outdoor Recreation & Marine Resources

  • Upgrade Maine State Parks ($50M)
  • Bolster Fisheries and Wildlife Infrastructure ($20M)
  • Improve Fishing Industry Infrastructure & Monitoring ($16M)

Support Essential Drinking and Wastewater Projects

  • Ensure the Safety of Drinking Water ($25M)
  • Repair Wastewater Infrastructure ($25M)

Facilitate Energy Needs

  • Create Interconnection Grants ($8M)

Modernize State Technology

  • Upgrade Government Systems, Accessibility, and Cybersecurity Protections($50M)

The proposal also includes $20 million to cover administration and successful deployment of funds.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Jack S Copp | May 05, 2021 09:12

Not nearly enough money for Roads, Bridges, Water treatment, or Fisheries. Without low income or affordable housing, nothing will get done! Workers need a home too. If educational monies are spent to train new workers, they must remain here in Maine to qualify for that education and not take their new education and skills out of state to get higher wages or it will just be another training program paid for by the State of Maine for Massachusetts , New Hampshire, etc.,etc. Please redirect some of this windfall money to take care of our legacy problems first, the clear and present problems that the average taxpayer and working folks want addressed now.

Posted by: Ken Pierce | May 05, 2021 04:47

Maybe we could do something for the "essential" workers who have worked though this entire thing at a lower weekly salary than being on unemployment? They really got the smelly end of the stick here. The recovery plan only gave businesses enough money to maintain current salaries but gave anyone on unemployment extra income. This is not fair to the employers or the employees and has created a horrible job market at the worst possible time. Throw all the money in the world around but if employers can't find employees, we can't very well meet our potential within this economy. Couple that with supply chain issues and this summer is going to be tough. Hospitality is getting record numbers of reservations. GET MAINE BACK TO WORK!

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