A spring Main Street scene on a weekday in downtown Biddeford, when restaurants were able to provide only takeout and curbside meals and some retail stores were still shuttered. Tammy Wells Photo

SACO – A $400,000 grant recently awarded to Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission will help the agency develop economic recovery strategies to provide relief to businesses from the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S Economic Development Administration grant targets York County and southern Oxford County and will be used to develop a region-wide economic recovery and resiliency program, said SMPDC Director Paul Schumacher.

“Our region is one of the most visited coastal communities and as such, tourism has been a critical part of the southern Maine economy for over one hundred years,” said Schumacher in a statement. “With this federal grant, we will hit the ground running and work to help the tourism industry immediately. We want to keep businesses in business.”

The funding will help SMPDC develop an economic recovery plan, deploy disaster recovery coordinators, and provide technical help and staff support for pandemic-response activities, Schumacher said. As well, the agency is expected to address how to reach businesses, particularly in rural areas, so they can access information, opportunities to help recovery and financing. Funds must be spent within the next two years.

The grant is part of a $1.6 million statewide grant, recently announced by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, awarded to support the redevelopment and revitalization of small businesses and communities in Maine. The funding was awarded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance Program.

“This public health and economic crisis have taken a toll on many small businesses and communities throughout Maine,” said Collins and King in a joint statement. “We welcome this funding that will support these organizations in their ongoing efforts to connect small businesses, individuals, and families with the resources they need to weather this difficult time.”

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