Getting the help you need to make it through

These are uncertain and unsettling times. Not only are we facing what may be the most severe international pandemic in 100 years, we are also dealing with the major disruptions it is bringing to our daily lives and the economy.

During this public health, economic and social crisis, the most important thing we can do is make sure we protect and take care of ourselves, our neighbors and the ones we hold dear. That means staying home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, checking on one another and, perhaps most importantly, getting the help we need to make it through.

Many Mainers are finding themselves out of work because of this outbreak. Many businesses have had to close or curtail their hours to protect public health, and out of concern for their own health, many people aren’t going out and spending money right now.

In anticipation of this economic slowdown, my colleagues and I in the Maine Legislature made some changes to the state’s unemployment system to accommodate those who are laid off, have their hours reduced or have to take an extended leave because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you are out of work, you should apply for unemployment. It’s the quickest way to put money back in your pocket. The best way to apply is online at reemployme.maine.gov. You may also call 1-800-593-7660 to apply, although my office has been advised that wait times can be long. A third option is to connect with Maine Career Centers, either by visiting mainecareercenter.gov and using the live chat feature, or by calling them at 1-888-457-8883. Career Centers are closed to in-person visits for the time being.

The Legislature also recently passed emergency legislation to make no- to low-interest consumer loans available through a loan guarantee program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine and Maine’s banks and credit unions. Mainers who have been economically affected by the pandemic can obtain zero-interest personal loans of up to $5,000 per month for up to three months. Call your local bank or credit union to get started, as participation may vary.

Small businesses affected by COVID-19 also have options to help them make it through. Because of this crisis, many different financing programs for businesses have become available, so if you own a small business, the best place to start is your financial institution, which will have the knowledge and authority to help you take advantage of these programs. 

You may also want to look into the U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which can provide you funds at a low interest rate to cover fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to the impact of a disaster. Start the process online by visiting sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.

Business owners may also contact the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development at 1-800-872-3838 or maine.gov/decd for up-to-date information and resources.

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, it is crucial that you get in touch with your health care provider. Do not show up to a health care facility without calling ahead and expect to get tested, as doing so could further contribute to the spread of the virus. If you think you might be infected, call your doctor or a local clinic first, and they’ll help you determine the steps you should take.

For information on COVID-19 in Maine, please dial 211, text your zip code to 898-211 or email info@211maine.org. Run by United Way, 211 Maine can also help connect Mainers with food, housing or health care. When you don’t know who to call, dial 211.

My office is also here for you as a resource. You can call 207-287-1515 or send me an email at James.Dill@legislature.maine.gov if you need assistance. Remember, I work for you.

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