A revised, open-ended sign on a shop window in Portland conveys a message of uncertainty in the business world amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in this April file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN


A single word that encompasses the more than 200-year-old story of our state and the land on which it grew. From the Indigenous communities from whom it was taken, to the cities, towns and villages that have tirelessly re-invented and rebuilt, ours is a history of creating a tomorrow that embraces our past. Ours is a tradition of resisting self-pity and despair.

We lead.

But sometimes even the most resilient among us can struggle to find our footing.

In the three months since the Senate last took action to provide COVID-19 relief, coronavirus deaths in the United States have passed 130,000 and millions of people have lost their jobs.

More than 130,000 Mainers have filed for unemployment since Sen. Susan Collins voted for the CARES Act relief package in March. Many essential workers across our state — the health care providers, grocery store workers, transit operators, delivery workers and others keeping our communities running during this pandemic — still lack the basic protections to do their jobs safely.

Collins’ own party, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is cruelly delaying efforts to provide the relief our state desperately needs.

The HEROES Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, marks critical progress towards protecting essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis and building a more people-powered democracy. It includes several crucial policies from the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, such as $200 billion for hazard pay, paid sick and family medical leave, child care support, OSHA protections, funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), collective bargaining protections, inclusion for immigrants and a broad definition of “essential” to protect all workers whose health and safety are at risk. It also contains $3.6 billion for electoral reforms, which will help our state put in place the necessary infrastructure for a free and fair election in November while allowing people to remain safe and healthy.

It was June 1, 1950, when then-Sen. Margaret Chase Smith introduced her “ Declaration of Conscience.” Smith later said, “My creed is that public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation with full recognition that every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration … that honor is to be earned but not bought.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has bailed out corporations — corporations that use their financial influence to buy favor and protection — while working people struggle. The result is millions in handouts for polluting oil companies and scraps for people trying to keep the lights on and put food on the table for their families.

It is time for Collins to decide if she will follow in the proud tradition of Mainers demonstrating true leadership to show her complete dedication to the people of this state and to the nation. Will Collins embody the spirit of our state motto? Will she find the courage Smith demonstrated when she unflinchingly reminded her colleagues of their fundamental duty? A duty not to corporate CEOs exploiting a health and economic crisis to line their own pockets, but to every Mainer standing ready to rebuild. To recover.

To lead.

The HEROES Act will save lives and prevent further suffering. It’s imperative that Senate Republicans bring this crucial bill to a vote. And when it comes time to vote, Collins can be sure that we will remember her choice.

T. Cashman Avila-Beck of Bangor is a writer and engagement specialist for Greenpeace.