Gov. Janet Mills has requested that small businesses in Maine be eligible for federal loans to help weather revenue losses from the coronavirus and proposed emergency legislation allowing affected workers to receive unemployment insurance.

Mills sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration certifying that businesses are already being impacted by the coronavirus in order to qualify for an “economic injury disaster loan” program announced last week by the SBA. The program will allow businesses to take low-interest loans of up to $2 million to help them overcome temporary revenue losses.

“Maine’s small businesses and their workers are the backbone of our economy, and there is no question that the coronavirus is impacting them,” Mills said in a statement Sunday morning. “It is my hope that these actions will not only help them weather this difficult time by providing critical capital and financial support, but also provide them an important sense of relief amid the uncertainty.”

Later this week, lawmakers will consider Mills’ legislation to allow workers impacted by the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, to apply for unemployment insurance. The Legislature is slated to suspend the 2020 session on Tuesday after taking up several emergency measures related to the virus.

The unemployment insurance bill is co-sponsored by House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, and Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

“Working families make up the heart and soul of our communities,” Jackson said in a message posted on Twitter on Sunday. This bill from (Mills, Gideon) and I is about making sure the stool doesn’t fall out from under them in the face of economic uncertainty. We are looking into more things we can do to promote public health, protect Maine families and support small businesses.”


The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, passed a bill late Friday that would give some workers up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they are unable to work because of the virus and would distribute $1 billion to states to help administer unemployment insurance. The U.S. Senate had yet to take up the bill as of Sunday.

As of Sunday evening, Maine had seven confirmed coronavirus cases as well as five presumptive positive cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

The virus has already prompted widespread cancellations of events across Maine and a growing number of schools in the state are closing their buildings and shifting to distance learning to help stem the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, Sugarloaf and Sunday River ski resorts announced plans to close their ski mountains “until further notice” beginning Sunday evening. Shawnee Peak in Bridgton will close after Monday night. The rest of the Maine Mariners’ hockey season was canceled and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced that all Catholic schools will close through at least March 29.

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