This year, Mainers have more reason than ever to look forward to summer. Twelve months into the coronavirus pandemic, the end is finally coming into view.

More than 20 percent of residents had received at least one shot of the vaccine by the end of last week, and health care providers report that they are vaccinating nearly 1 percent of the population every day.

If vaccinations can maintain that pace – and the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention says they expect it to accelerate as more vaccine doses become available – we could be reaching herd immunity by mid-June, if not the end of May goal set by President Biden.

By the time summer rolls around, families would be able to gather without worrying about spreading a fatal disease. Restaurants, bars and hotels can look forward to more normal levels of business. And school districts that have not already done so should be getting ready to resume full-time in-person learning, and drawing up plans to make up for the ground lost by more than a year of distance learning.

The prospects for an economic recovery look rosy as well, thanks to the passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed by Biden Thursday. It is, hopefully, the last COVID relief package and the first focused almost entirely on helping the individuals and families who have borne the worst of the pandemic’s economic fallout.

The package is projected to send $6 billion in federal spending to Maine through a variety of programs aimed at keeping people whole until the economy has a chance to rebound.


The single most expensive part of the package is the $1,400 stimulus checks sent to individuals who earn up to $75,000 and couples with incomes less than $150,000. The checks will go out to almost all of the roughly 750,000 Mainers who received a $600 check in December. That alone would put $1 billion into the state’s economy.

The bill also raises money to extend enhanced unemployment benefits into early September. The current round of $300-per-week additional aid payments was scheduled to expire last week, directly affecting the approximately 50,000 Mainers who are currently receiving benefits.

Additionally, the package increases the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children age 5 and under, and $3,000 for children 6 to 18. The new law will make the credits available to parents who didn’t owe enough in income tax to take full advantage of the benefit and will pay it out in monthly installments.

These and other changes will put money into the pockets of people from the lowest income to the middle class. According to analysis by the Tax Foundation, families with children, who make $91,000 or less, would receive nearly three-quarters of the benefits from the rescue plan.

That’s money that will be spent on mortgages, rent, groceries, clothing, restaurant meals – even vacations, making up for the economic activity lost to the long COVID lockdown.

This is a transformative package, and it was good to see strong support for it from Sen. Angus King, an independent, and 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat.

And it was disappointing that Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District both voted to reject this lifeline.

Fortunately, their opposition won’t stop the federal government from sending the much-needed aid to Maine.

Congress and the Biden administration have forged a path out of the COVID crises. We have more reasons than ever to look forward to summer.

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