Since Maine’s first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 12, individuals across our state have sprung into action. People in our community have quickly adapted to protect public health, from temporarily closing schools and businesses to moving to remote work, practicing social distancing and more. We are grateful and proud for the consideration and support we are providing each other, and wanted to provide some additional insight and resources too.

In the Legislature, while our second session generally runs through mid-April, the presiding officers made the decision to end our session on March 17. This was done in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines and to keep staff, constituents and our communities safe.

Before adjourning, we passed emergency legislation to help Mainers through this COVID-19 crisis. Among other things, we included provisions to temporarily expand unemployment insurance benefits; empower the state Department of Education to waive certain school-day requirements and ensure students continue to receive needed meals while schools are closed; allow remote participation in municipal meetings; establish a consumer loan guarantee program to help eligible Mainers access low-or no-interest loans; and authorize the Governor to prohibit utilities from terminating residential electric and water service during this period. We additionally designated at least $11 million in state funding to further respond to COVID-19.

Additionally, Gov. Mills has taken a number of actions to slow the spread of the virus. Most notably, she proclaimed a state of civil emergency that brings Maine to highest alert and allows her to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people. It also gives Maine more access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts. At this time, Gov. Mills is also mandating that all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. Dine-in facilities are practicing curbside takeout or delivery, schools have shifted to remote learning and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. While these are certainly big changes for our daily life, they are critical to keeping us healthy.

In our community, we know many of us are worried about how the ongoing COVID-19 response and impacts may affect several of our local farms. We are pushing for further guidance and policies from the administration to address the specific needs of our community.

In the meantime, we encourage everyone to keep supporting our farmers and vendors while practicing proper physical distancing techniques.

We know many of us are also worried about our older loved ones, for whom the virus is easier to contract and takes a larger toll. For that reason, we ask all in our community to reach out to the seniors in our lives to offer assistance in running errands and connecting with resources. We are grateful to the many grocery stores that have opened up senior shopping hours and to the youth in our community making calls to our aging neighbors to provide companionship and keep their social connections from fraying. We are happy to connect any seniors with additional support.

For any seniors reading this, it’s important to accept the generosity of others, but please stay alert for those who would take advantage of the situation. Never share information with persons over the phone unless they are trusted – no agency, state or federal, will call constituents asking for information.

One particular thing we’d both like to emphasize. This is a time when more communication with one another is key. If you are not feeling well, tell your loved ones. If you are nervous about your income and paying bills, direct communication with creditors, utilities or medical facilities ahead of time might lead to some relief. Whatever your situation, reaching out to others in this time of physical separation can be a calming act.

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please contact a medical provider, and do not be concerned about costs. Gov. Mills declared an insurance emergency that ensures all private health insurance plans will cover the cost of testing for COVID-19, and MaineCare is doing the same. Additionally, for anyone uninsured, many local clinics are offering tests at low- or no-cost. It is important that you call ahead so your provider’s office can prepare for your visit and take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

Finally, if you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, the Maine CDC has set up a hotline that is available by calling 211 or 866-811-5695. It can also be reached by texting your zip code to 207-898-211 or emailing [email protected]

And of course, please use us as a resource. While the Legislature has adjourned, both we and our staff are still here to serve. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected] or [email protected] if there is anything we can do to help.

It remains an honor for us both to serve you in the Legislature and to help us all weather this pandemic safely.

Reps. Shawn Babine and Chris Caiazzo, both D-Scarborough, are serving their first terms in the Maine House of Representatives and each represent a portion of Scarborough.

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