Maine has now mailed $285 relief checks to more than 300,000 residents as part of an initiative to support people who worked during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The state still plans to send checks to a total of roughly 525,000 Mainers before the end of the year, with about 25,000 going out per day, excluding holidays and some weekends, said Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Lawmakers allocated funding for the checks as part of an $8.5 billion two-year budget earlier this year after Republicans pushed for a wide program similar to the tax relief the state offered to people who received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Those who received taxable wages or salaries in 2020 but earned less than $75,000 — or $150,000 if filing jointly — are eligible. Self-employed workers are generally not eligible.
The checks are being delivered as statewide economic conditions have rebounded compared with 2020, although about 33,000 fewer people were employed this fall compared to the same time in 2019. They are also arriving at a time when rising inflation has sparked nationwide concerns and as most Mainers will face higher energy costs this winter.
Maine previously gave a one-time $600 payment to workers receiving unemployment in December 2020 to offset a loss of federal benefits. A broader swath of Mainers also received stimulus checks from the federal government over the past two years.
The $285 checks are being sent via U.S. mail to addresses on record with Maine Revenue Services, usually the address provided by taxpayers on their 2020 filing. Between 1 percent and 2 percent of checks so far have been returned to sender, Figueroa said. In those cases, staff are working to find updated addresses and mail checks again.
Although the state expects to send all checks by the end of the year, Maine Revenue Services is asking people to refrain from inquiring about the status of their check until the end of January as the U.S. Postal Service can be busy around the holidays. Anyone who believes they are eligible for a check but does not receive one by then has until the end of March to submit proof of eligibility.