Good morning from Augusta. The last day that bills can be filed for the 2022 legislative session, is Sept. 24. Somehow, next year is approaching. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ““There was just so much hope put into this year’s fair. It’s such a blow,” said Crystal Sands of Eddington, who was among the vendors hoping to sell at the now-cancelled Common Ground fair later this month. “But even before they canceled, we were starting to feel anxiety. This was the chance for the journal to make it, but would we get sick? It’s kind of a relief that they had made this difficult decision for us.”
What we’re watching today
Fall may bring a change in how money is spent in Maine, but strong spending despite a worker shortage is expected to persist. It has been a banner year for many tourism businesses in Maine — including campgrounds — that have seen regional demand increase to offset the Canadian border closure. Taxable sales in Maine were up a staggering 30.8 percent in June over the same month two years ago, according to state data.
It is a far cry from where we thought Maine would be 18 months ago, when the state was facing doomsday budget projections that were flipped by massive amounts of federal aid that have continued through this year. While enhanced federal unemployment benefits are ending, many of the programs passed as part of the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan are getting going, including aid to cities, towns and counties that is largely in the planning stages here.
One of those major programs is a boosted child tax credit, expected to go to 215,000 Mainers with an average payment of $415 a month through December. Budget commissioner Kirsten Figueroa noted in last month’s state revenue report that the credit is likely to keep households spending through the calendar year. Those payments are broader and smaller than the heightened unemployment benefits, but only about one-fifth of respondents in a recent U.S. Census Bureau survey said they mostly spent that money. About half used it to pay off debt.
Familiar challenges are expected to persist, however. Lining up affordable child care continues to be a struggle for younger families. Teenage and college workers who have been called upon to fill key jobs in the service industry are heading back to school as many hospitality businesses close earlier for the season despite strong demand. A group of workers skewing older and toward women are still unemployed, facing a mismatch in the workforce.
The Maine politics top 3
— “His mother nearly died. Then her rural Maine nursing home said it’s closing,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Facilities cannot close until they place all residents, said Brenda Gallant, Maine’s long-term care ombudsman. Her office has reached out to the homes’ residents to try and assist them with finding the best placement. For some, that might mean moving out of state to be closer to family, some staying close or with spouses. Staffing difficulties will make any placement a challenge.”
— “Maine has staved off eviction wave by giving out rent relief faster than other states,” Lia Russell, BDN: “Despite initial challenges, Maine has become one of the most successful states in disbursing its rental assistance money, though it still has spent far from a majority of its funding. It had spent 28 percent of the $200 million from the December package as of Friday, placing it 11th in the nation, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”
While other pandemic-related assistance programs have expired, rental assistance is ongoing. The program will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis through September 2022. People below certain income levels experiencing financial difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic are eligible, and the assistance can fund up to 18 total months of rent. The large sum Maine received means funding is unlikely to run out.
— “This Maine principal couldn’t find a local place to get her students tested for COVID, so she set up her own clinic,” Bill Trotter, BDN: “I am not a medical professional,” said Calais Elementary School Principal Sue Carter, a social worker by training who has been principal at the school, which educates children from pre-K through 6th grade, for the past 8 years. “None of this should be my responsibility.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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