A panel tasked with assisting the economic recovery of the state’s tourism and hospitality industry will recommend easing quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements for out-of-state travelers and providing financial support for businesses hurt by the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic.

Draft recommendations from the Hospitality, Tourism and Retail subcommittee of Gov. Janet Mills’ Economic Recovery Committee suggests quickly bringing Maine’s restrictions for travelers from out of state in line with approaches of nearby states, which are not as strict.

“New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts do not have the mandatory 14-day quarantine or testing requirement that Maine imposes,” the subcommittee wrote in a June 25 draft. The recommendations are not final and may be revised following a full committee meeting Friday.

“We recognize that this recommendation strays into the public health decisions that are technically outside the scope of the Maine Economic Recovery Committee,” it stated. “However, we feel compelled to make this recommendation because the economic consequences are so massive for these sectors and Mainers more generally.”

The state should immediately begin designing a support mechanism to help hospitality, tourism and retail businesses, as well as wedding venues, music and cultural attractions and motor coach companies, the committee said in its second recommendation. The scale of government support should be proportional to the decline in business this season, it added.

The subcommittee’s suggestions are not final and may be revised based on input from the full economic recovery panel. The 39-member committee has six subcommittees focused on different aspects of the state’s economy.


“This process is really iterative and evolving, like everything with (COVID-19),” said Bob Montgomery-Rice, the CEO of Bangor Savings Bank and Hospitality, Tourism and Retail subcommittee chairman.

Subcommittees were asked for a “quick start” suggestion that could help stabilize the state’s economy, and long-term recommendations for support and recovery that are more weighty and expensive, committee co-chair Josh Broder, CEO of Portland technology firm Tilson, said in an interview.

The committee’s initial report is due July 15, but its “quick start” recommendations may be submitted to state agencies next week, Broder said. It is not meant to change the state’s economic reopening plan. A full report in December will outline ways Maine can recover from the current recession.

“We have to keep a respectful distance from reopening because we do not have expertise in public health,” Broder said. But some of the committee’s suggested measures may be time-sensitive, he added.

“You can sense the urgency and just what dire straits some businesses are in,” Broder said.

In March, Mills enacted a 14-day quarantine on travelers to Maine, except for essential workers. The restriction was meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the state and preserve its hospital capacity.


But an extension of the quarantine requirement into August frustrated Maine’s lodging industry, which fears it could lose an entire summer. The Mills administration this month offered adult visitors the option of attesting to a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before arriving in the state instead of quarantine. Visitors from Vermont and New Hampshire, which both have low case counts like Maine, are exempt.

Lodging business owners say that option is impractical because many guests cannot receive a test or get results back soon enough before their trip. Hotel occupancy in Maine was about 28 percent last week, according to STR, a hotel data benchmarking firm.

Maine has stricter entry requirements than nearby states. New Hampshire allows tourists to attest they have completed a 14-day quarantine at home before arriving. Massachusetts expects a 14-day quarantine for visitors and Vermont allows quarantine-free travel for visitors from counties with fewer than 400 COVID-19 cases per 1 million residents.

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine and a subcommittee member, said the aim should be to find an acceptable solution for businesses and the government.

“Our overall recommendation is, sit down with industry in a room and let’s work this out. We need to find a position the administration and industry can live with,” he said at the meeting Wednesday.

Committee members suggested the state examine travel restrictions adopted by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut this week that mandate a two-week quarantine for travelers from coronavirus hot spots including Texas, Arizona and Florida.


The administration could develop a model that uses transparent metrics to determine which parts of the country pose the greatest risk for tourism to Maine, said Jean Ginn Marvin, owner of the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here – let’s look at what other people are doing, learn from them, but let’s keep people safe and keep businesses working at the same time,” she said.

Struggling businesses and workers in tourism and hospitality also should receive financial support from the state, the committee recommended. HospitalityMaine and other trade groups have pitched an $800 million relief plan for their industries using money from a $1.25 billion federal emergency allocation.

It is uncertain whether the industry will get that much, considering the many competing needs for that funding. The true magnitude of financial support the industry may need will depend on the strength of what remains of the summer tourism season, Montgomery-Rice said.

“If we stay in this current status for this summer, the number we need is a lot bigger,” he said.

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