People dine outdoors in West Market Square where Broad Street has been closed. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN

The Facebook post from a popular brewery and restaurant owner in Massachusetts went viral after describing the impossible trap currently faced by many businesses in the hospitality industry.

The closing line, a warning: “Winter Is Coming.”

With record-breaking temperatures during a dry July, winter may seem far off.

But it’s coming — both in terms of weather and with the resurgence of the coronavirus in much of the country. And we’re not ready.

As restaurants and other businesses have shifted to outdoor service in an effort to safely serve their customers during Maine’s short summer season, their eyes are also starting to focus on the fall and winter, when the weather will add its vote to how much business can be conducted.

We need the U.S. Senate to take action — now — both to shore up a faltering economy and to put in place a national strategy that might be able to better control the spread of COVID-19.

Maine has been exceptional. Aggressive, thoughtful leadership has set the stage for the state’s success, bolstered by Maine people who were early to recognize the dangers posed by COVID-19 and willing to change their lives, sometimes dramatically, to do their part to protect their community.

But Maine is not an island and unless we get some help, we will not be able to protect our people from the twin dangers of disease and the economic fallout that it is causing.

As the Senate negotiates a new COVID-19 relief bill, here are some suggestions on items that must be included:

First and foremost, the bill must include resources to further expand testing, treatment and research and development aimed at COVID-19. The economy cannot recover — will not recover — until this killer disease is under control.

The relief bill should include expanded funding for Medicaid to ensure that the state-federal partnership has the resources to cover people who need access to health care. Expanding the federal share of the program also has the added benefit of supporting state governments.

Secondly, the relief package must support people. That means extending the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit, providing direct support to working families, increased support for programs such as SNAP that help reduce hunger and provide protection from evictions. The bill should also include support for new Americans and immigrant families. We will all rise or fall together.

Third, the federal government must help state, local and tribal governments. Without assistance, the damage caused by the coronavirus to state and local budgets will trickle down to families already struggling. First responders will be laid off, important services will be curtailed and we won’t have the resources to safely open schools next month. Maine alone is estimating a $524 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, while cities and towns are projecting $146 more in lost revenue.

The federal government must act or the consequences will be dire.

Fourth, the Senate must improve and extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help businesses weather the ongoing calamity and prepare for the literal and figurative winter that’s coming.

Consider Massachusetts. After fighting the coronavirus throughout the spring and bringing its spread under control, our neighbor to the south is seeing a uptick in cases and experts are warning that restrictions might be necessary to avoid a new wave of the disease.

Now is our chance to take the steps necessary to shore up our defenses and make sure our people can weather the storm that’s blowing on the horizon.

Fifth, the Senate should include support for core government functions in the next COVID-19 relief bill. That means funding to ensure that elections can be carried out safely and efficiently, that the Post Office — so important — can do its work and that we can accurately complete the census, which has been curtailed by COVID-19.

Here’s the kicker. There’s not an original idea in this list. Most of the priorities I’ve outlined were all included in the HEROES Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May.

Now, three months later, the question isn’t whether or not the HEROES Act should pass, it’s whether or not the $3 trillion plan does enough.

There’s still time to act — to bolster the faltering economy, to staunch the spread of COVID-19, to take care of families on the edge. But time is short. We need action now.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.

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David Farmer, Opinion columnist

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist....