Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the State Address at the Maine State House on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Ben McCanna / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — A planned round of $500 relief checks would go to more Mainers than the last one and be mailed out gradually over the last six months of 2022.

The idea was the key policy proposal unveiled by Gov. Janet Mills during her State of the State address on Thursday, but it was first proposed by legislative Republicans. The Democratic governor included it in a $850 million spending proposal released Tuesday that makes use of a massive projected budget surplus through mid-2023 that is fueled by COVID-19 aid.

Maine lawmakers must approve the checks and the new package, but here’s a guide to how the $411 million relief check plan is shaping up as a response to inflation and cost increases.

Who would be eligible for the new checks?

Under Mills’ plan, you would get a relief check if you file a 2021 income tax return by the end of October 2022 with an income of less than $75,000 if single or filing separately from your partner, $112,500 if filing as the head of a household or $150,000 if filing jointly.

This program is estimated to reach 800,000 Mainers, far beyond a last round of relief checks last year that went to 500,000 people or so while largely being centered on hourly wage earners. The new round will include self-employed people, retirees and small-business owners who were excluded in the last round.

How would the rollout happen?

More people means more time to roll out the checks. The state’s plan envisions the first round of checks going out in early July and then continuing “on a rolling basis” through the rest of 2022. The last round was largely sent out between the last weeks of 2021.

What is the political discussion around the checks?

There is a bit of awkwardness among Republicans on this issue since Mills’ inclusion of their idea in her budget led the campaign of former Gov. Paul LePage, who is running against the governor in 2022, to hit them as a Mills “campaign gimmick.”

On the left flank, progressives are not enamored with the idea. The liberal Maine Center for Economic Policy advised against the “blanket” checks in a statement after Mills’ address and suggested a big sales tax credit boost aimed at lower-income families.

We would never advise household budgeting based on promises from Augusta, but since the checks were a Republican idea embraced by the Democratic governor, they are likely to stick in any budget deal that passes the Legislature later this spring.

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...