U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and former gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody talk on stage at Moody's business in Gorham in this July 15, 2020, file photo. | BDN Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We were aware of the situation and believe it’s been resolved at this point,” Dover-Foxcroft police Chief Ryan Reardon said of a boundary dispute between neighbors that led to one Sawzalling the other’s garage in half. Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The U.S. Senate returns to Washington today as negotiations ramp up on the next coronavirus relief package. Senate Republicans have coalesced around a plan that would provide $75 billion to reopen schools, another round of $1,200 payments to most Americans, reduced unemployment benefits and a five-year liability shield from virus-related lawsuits, according to The Associated Press. President Donald Trump is pushing for a payroll tax cut that does not look to be widely supported by fellow Republicans. 

One of the biggest effects of the new stimulus package could be the July 31 sunset of the federally funded $600 in weekly unemployment benefits that drove wage growth and have helped offset budget crises in states like Maine that tax unemployment benefits. While some sort of increased benefit is likely in the next federal virus aid plan, it is almost certain to be reduced so it does not push unemployed people to make more than they did at work.

Both U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, have said they support continuing some benefits, but not the $600. House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is opposing Collins in the 2020 election, had a similar position to Collins in a statement early this month, saying Congress should extend benefits but in a way that businesses “do not face another hurdle in bringing their employees back.”

Collins has also teased an extension of a business loan program that could soon be acted on. It would build on the framework of the Paycheck Protection Program, a broad-based small business forgivable loan program that has provided more than $500 billion to businesses, including more than $2.2 billion in Maine. Collins, who co-wrote that program, has proposed another round of loans for hard-hit businesses with less than 300 workers.

Her office told a state economic panel earlier this month that such a program could pass in the ensuing weeks, while Golden is spearheading a similar loan program with expanded provisions that has bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. It remains to be seen how this will fit into wider discussions, but it promises to be a busy and important week in Washington.

The Maine politics top 3

— Starting this week, the Bangor Daily News will be tracking spending in the general election for two high-profile races: the Senate race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and challenger Sara Gideon, and the battle for the 2nd Congressional District seat between incumbent U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and opponent Dale Crafts. Both are likely to see massive amounts of spending, BDN reporter Jessica Piper notes, although the competitive Senate race has seen tens of millions already and the congressional race is really just beginning.

— “What Maine officials will have to consider about the coronavirus when reopening schools,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “Thanks to its relatively low levels of COVID-19 cases, Maine is in a better position than other states to implement safety protocols and send students physically back to schools this fall, public health officials have said.”

— “Susan Collins, Sara Gideon no closer to debating in toss-up Maine race,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Both sides have made their opponents’ willingness to face questions a cudgel. Gideon held a variety of small, in-person events but only participated in a few debates with her opponents Bre Kidman and Betsy Sweet during the primary. Only one was televised. Democratic activists have pressured Collins to hold town hall events in recent years.”

Ranked-choice voting count close to an end in 2nd District

We could see the results of the secretary of state’s official count of last week’s primary between Republican candidates for Golden’s seat today. The office announced it had only three of the 11 counties left to tabulate Friday — Androscoggin, Franklin and Penobscot, all of which Crafts won handily on primary day. State law requires the count to continue despite Crafts’ convincing win and both of his opponents conceding to him. After that, the secretary of state needs to decide five Democratic primaries, which are sure to be decided quicker. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...