Pandemic relief is available for childcare, small businesses, nonprofits

By State Sen. Erin Herbig | Sep 03, 2020

For most Waldo County businesses and families, there isn’t an aspect of our lives that this pandemic hasn’t impacted. The global business environment has changed dramatically, and our family dynamics have shifted in ways few of us would have imagined. To give some support to Mainers who are struggling, Gov. Mills recently announced several new programs to help fill the gaps left by the pandemic and the changes our society has made to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Earlier this year, with the passage of the CARES Act, the federal government put some programs in place to try to help businesses survive. Programs like the Paycheck Protection Program gave some relief to small businesses, but not everyone who needed help was able to access it. That’s why earlier this month the Mills administration announced the creation of the Economic Recovery Grant Program to help Maine businesses and nonprofits that have experienced hardship as a result of the pandemic.

The new program will take $200 million from the CARES Act funding the federal government distributed to Maine this spring and will use it to help businesses and nonprofits keep their doors open as the pandemic continues. These funds will not be able to replace all the lost revenue businesses have experienced because of this economic crisis, but it will help some of our local small businesses and organizations keep their doors open so they can continue serving our community.

To qualify, organizations must be significantly based in Maine and must have fewer than 50 employees. Sole proprietors can also apply for this program. Applications for funding are being accepted until Sept. 9, and you can learn more and apply here: maine.gov/decd/economic-recovery-grants.

Another option for small businesses is the Micro-Enterprise Business Grant program run by the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development in partnership with the Maine Small Business Development Centers. This program helps businesses with five or fewer employees and whose owners are in the low-to-moderate income range by providing grants of up to $5,000. This program is also funded by the CARES Act. Funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so to see if you qualify and to apply, visit mainesbdc.org/cdbg/.

On the home front, many families are thinking about what childcare issues they may face as children head back to school. Several schools in Waldo County have adopted hybrid learning models for the fall, where kids will have in-person learning for part of the time and virtual learning for the other part. While most of the plans local schools have put in place prioritize getting younger children back in the classroom full time, some families will still have to balance figuring out childcare for hours when their child would typically be in the classroom.

To try and help working families with childcare on days when their student is doing virtual learning, Gov. Mills has also announced $25 million in CARES Act funds to help expand day programming for students. The money will be distributed by the Department of Education to schools across the state, and schools will then partner with local childcare providers to create or expand day programming for students when they’re not in the classroom.

The funds will be used for initial costs of materials and supplies, facilities expansions and staffing. This program supplements earlier rounds of funding that were awarded directly to child care providers to help them cover the costs of operating during a pandemic.

These programs will help many people in our community, but they won’t address every need or fix every challenge our neighbors continue to face. Over the past few months, I’ve worked with many people to help find solutions to their problems, from collecting unemployment benefits, to utilizing grant programs that support local business, to finding nutritious and affordable food, to connecting with state agencies and more.

If you’re struggling right now and need help, please don’t hesitate to write to me at Erin.Herbig@legislature.maine.gov or call my office at 287-1515. The United Way’s 211 hotline also remains a fantastic resource for finding help; you can call them at 211, text your ZIP code to 898-211 or visit their website at 211maine.org.

Thank you for your continued work as we try to keep each other safe, healthy and supported during this unprecedented time.

State Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Waldo, represents Senate District 11, Waldo County. She is not running for reelection because she took the job of Belfast city manager in March.

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