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Our lives depend on it
The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the people of Maine and first responders’ lives. As a Bangor firefighter, I see this every day.
There is no doubt that the continuing nature of this crisis requires additional assistance, particularly as state and local governments face increasing costs and decreasing tax revenues.
The U.S. House has passed the HEROES Act, which includes much needed state and local aid. Now the Senate must act. We need Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King to do everything possible to ensure that our first responders have access to the resources needed to remain on the frontlines and continue protecting and serving the people of Maine.
Without additional federal funds of unrestricted aid to local and state governments, our municipalities will no doubt be looking to cut local budgets, thereby potentially impacting fire and emergency related services in our communities.
Maine’s fire departments of all sizes already have a shortage of personnel, personal protective equipment and other necessary equipment. When firefighters and EMS personnel are quarantined, it leaves departments with gaps in their ability to respond to regular emergencies and increased call volumes during this time of community anxiety.
To address these vital needs and ensure fire and EMS personnel are best able to serve our communities, we need Ses. Collins and King to fund the frontlines and deliver federal funding to state and local governments to help defray the economic impact of COVID. Our lives depend upon it.
Overcoming this crisis
As a small business owner, I’ve seen first hand the impact that this pandemic has had on our state’s economy. In March, my business ground to a halt as consumer spending dropped and Maine’s COVID-19 cases rose. The economic fallout of this pandemic is frightening, but we’re well-positioned as a state to overcome this crisis.
Last year in Augusta, I supported our state’s balanced bipartisan budget, which placed an additional $20 million in the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.” A balanced budget is required by Maine’s Constitution and keeps our financial foundation strong. Earlier this year, our bipartisan supplemental budget added another $17.4 million to the fund. Paired with other reserves, this careful forethought will ease some of the fiscal strain Maine will inevitably face as this economic crisis continues.
Gov. Janet Mills has also responded by convening economic leaders and experts from throughout the state. The governor’s Economic Recovery Committee recently made strong recommendations for funding grant opportunities for impacted Maine businesses, investing in our infrastructure to make sure we can attract and retain employers and supporting our state’s education system during this time of crisis.
There’s no doubt that the next few months will be difficult. We will be forced to make tough decisions in Augusta about which programs to preserve and what areas to cut. I am grateful that we took prudent actions over the last two years, and I’m confident that by collaborating with the Economic Recovery Committee we will get Maine’s economy through this difficult time.
Rep. Bettyann Sheats
Support for wood fuel
I am writing in support of the recent OpEd piece in the BDN, “Wood fuel part of solution to COVID-19’s damage to Maine economy.”
As president of a mechanical engineering firm, I have been designing heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems for 30 years. Modern wood heating systems work very well and are ideally suited for Maine homeowners and businesses.
However, modern wood heating systems were relatively new to this country when incentives for “renewable fuels” such as solar, wind and geothermal energy were being considered by Congress. These very efficient and cost-saving heating systems were therefore not included in the tax incentives generally necessary to promote any “disruptive” new technology.
Fortunately, our Maine senators have been fighting to correct this understandable oversight by introducing The BTU Act (now S. 628), which extends the renewable energy tax credit to modern wood heating systems. Maine’s representatives have been very supportive, and language from the BTU Act is now included in a House-passed bill awaiting Senate action.
Several years ago, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King were able to obtain funding support for a road-map project to assist in the revitalization of Maine’s vital forest economy. This study concluded with emphasis on the growth of markets for Maine’s “underutilized wood and biomass … utilizing modern thermal systems.”
On behalf of Maine homeowners and businesses, as well as our loggers and forest industry, I hope very much that our senators will now finally be able to obtain passage of our BTU Act.