The Portland City Council voted Monday night to extend its stay-at-home order for another three weeks and to require workers who interact with the public to wear face coverings or face masks.

The requirement for workers to wear face coverings will take effect Thursday. It includes exceptions for workers who have health or safety concerns, as well as workers who do not interact with the public and can maintain social distance from other employees.

But it will require many people who work at grocery stores, convenience stores, banks or other public-facing businesses to wear masks. Councilor Spencer Thibodeau proposed the mask measure and said his intent was for employers to provide the masks for their staff, but the amendment did not explicitly require that because people can make masks out of different materials.

The councilors debated the effectiveness of the masks and whether the general public should be required to wear them as well. The vote was split, 5-4. Thibodeau suggested he might propose a broader requirement when the Council reconvenes next Monday.

“My face covering protects you,” he said. “Yours protects me. We as a group, we are together protecting one another.”

The councilors voted unanimously in support of extending the stay-at-home order. They split, 5-4, on the face mask requirement. Councilors Jill Duson, Nick Mavodones, Spencer Thibodeau, Tae Chong and Mayor Kate Snyder supported that proposal. Councilors Kim Cook, Pious Ali, Justin Costa and Belinda Ray voted against it.


The city’s stay-at-home order would have expired Monday without the Council’s vote. The councilors extended it through May 18. The state’s similar order remains in place until at least Thursday, and Maine Gov. Janet Mills is expected to announce Tuesday her decision on the timing and details of an extension.

The City Council has tweaked the order since it was first announced March 24. In the weeks since, councilors added a ban on short-term rentals, enacted temporary leash restrictions for dogs and allowed some real estate activity.

The councilors continued to make adjustments Monday.

They added a financial incentive for short-term rental owners who convert their units to housing for tenants who use General Assistance or a Section 8 housing voucher. Those owners who give up their short-term rental licenses for at least one year will receive a $1,000 payment from the city’s Housing Trust Fund. That incentive will be available while the city’s stay-at-home order is in place and then for 30 days after it ends.

Councilor Kim Cook proposed that incentive last month. She originally offered a second option, which would have refunded registration fees for any short-term rental owners who converted their units to long-term apartment rentals for any potential tenants.

But she ultimately moved forward only with the proposal on affordable housing units, adding a $25,000 cap on the amount of money that could be spent on that program out of the fund. That limit will allow up to 25 vacation rentals to be turned into housing for low-income people.


“The entire proposal is meant to incentivize dwelling units which are currently used for the lodging industry to come back into housing, and specifically back into housing for those who receive some sort of assistance with their housing payments,” Cook said.

Some councilors had expressed concern about earlier proposals, but the group unanimously passed the amendment Monday.

“I just wanted to state why I warmed to this,” said Councilor Jill Duson, who is the chairwoman of the city’s Housing Committee. “That is because the incentive is truly targeted for a specific outcome.”

The councilors also formalized a change they discussed last week. The original stay-at-home order banned nonessential businesses such as retailers from shipping orders or offering curbside pickup. The issue did not attract significant input from the public until Portland issued a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” about the order, and then councilors received hundreds of emails objecting to the restrictions. They held an emergency workshop last week to publicly walk back that position and pledged to change the language, which happened with a unanimous vote Monday.

Mary Alice Scott, the executive director of Portland Buy Local, referred the councilors to a recent study that ranked Maine first among states likely to experience severe economic fallout from the pandemic because of its demographics and economic makeup, and she noted the state’s reliance on small businesses that often do not have large cash reserves.

“I just want to say thank you for listening to the concern from that community,” she said.

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