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Maine’s rural forestry industries, like the state’s economy as a whole, sustained significant blows in the face of the pandemic. Loggers, foresters, lumber yards, and others are struggling to recover from the losses of the past year and a half, exacerbated by outdated technology that makes it hard to keep up with demand.

But thanks to Maine Senate leadership and Governor Mills, these businesses are getting a helping hand through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Program. $20 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan funds, granted during the last round of federal COVID-19 relief, will be used to recover from pandemic losses, upgrade equipment, develop new products, and strengthen the supply chain.


How does the Initiative work?


The Forestry Recovery Initiative, administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI), will make grant awards available in phases. Phase 1, which will accept applications through January, will focus on immediate financial relief to forest products industry businesses that have experienced negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic to help them sustain the viability of their business. Eligible uses of grant funds may include but are not limited to:

  • payroll costs and expenses;

  • rent or mortgage payments for business facilities;

  • utility payments;

  • purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) required by the business;

  • business-related equipment; and

  • Necessary reopening and operating expenses.

Phase 2, which will launch early next year, focuses on developing new products strengthening the supply chain. Changes in the forestry sector are going to require a new approach, including a shift to more sustainable and eco-friendly products. Making the investment in infrastructure upgrades and development now will help us create and sustain jobs for rural Mainers while strengthening Maine’s economy as a whole.


“It’s critical to make all sectors of our industry whole after COVID so we can continue our efforts to build a more diversified and resilient economy as global demand for more climate-friendly wood-based products grows,” said Patrick Strauch, Executive Director of the Maine Forest Products Council. “Governor Mills knows how important our forest industry is to rural Maine communities and our workers, and we thank her for her efforts with this initiative.”


Why is this initiative so important?


Forestry products are some of Maine’s most valuable resources. In 2019, industries in this sector generated more than 31,000 jobs and more than $8.1 billion in revenue for the state. One in every 25 workers, as well as one in every 25 dollars in Maine’s financial output, comes from the forestry sector. These numbers don’t even include businesses and organizations across the state which benefit from these industries.


In other words, the forestry sector is one of Maine’s top sources of revenue, propping up our state economy in ways we don’t often discuss. By investing this $20 million into the sector, Maine Senate leaders and Governor Mills are supporting thousands of Maine workers and businesses that keep our economy strong. Mainers for Working Families applauds their initiative and commitment to rural Maine’s working families.


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On November 10, Governor Mills announced that 524,754 working Mainers will receive one-time Disaster Relief Payments of $285, to be distributed by the Department of Administrative and Financial Services between now and the end of the year.


ADD YOUR NAME: Thank state leaders for recognizing the contributions of Maine’s workers

“The hardworking men and women who kept our state running through the pandemic deserve our appreciation,” said Governor Mills. “As a result of the bipartisan budget passed by the Legislature and signed by me, my Administration will send one-time payments of $285 to more than half a million working Maine people. I hope this will help Maine families to some small degree during the holiday season as we work to fully recover our economy.”


Eligible individuals must have lived full-time in Maine and earned wages, salaries, tips, or other taxable employee pay within the 2020 tax year, and have reported that income on a State individual tax return by October 31, 2021. Eligible recipients must have had adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 (or less than $150,000 if filing jointly) for the 2020 tax year. Those claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return for the 2020 tax year were deemed ineligible. No application is required. Full eligibility details are available at Maine.gov/revenue/check. Those with questions about Disaster Relief Payments should contact Maine Revenue Services at (207) 624-9924 or visit Maine.gov/revenue/check.


Mainers for Working Families applauds Governor Mills, Senate President Troy Jackson, Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry for recognizing all the hardworking Mainers for their sacrifices throughout the pandemic to help keep our state economy running. Take a moment to say thank you to Maine leaders!


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This month’s election saw one of the highest turnout rates for a referendum-only ballot in Maine’s history, and much of that was propelled by the very controversial CMP corridor debate. CMP and its partners spent over $60 million to sway voters in its losing bid at the ballot box.


Mainers overwhelmingly rejected the corridor in a 59-41 vote. But CMP isn’t giving up that easily. At the risk of losing its profit on the project, Avangrid (CMP’s Connecticut-based parent company) has sued to challenge the constitutionality of the referendum. Avangrid is a subsidiary of Spanish power giant Iberdrola.


And then there’s CMP’s track record with its customers. According to J.D. Power, CMP has ranked dead last in customer satisfaction for the past three years, with Versant (Maine’s other major utility company) not doing much better. CMP’s 2020 score was even lower than Pacific Gas & Electric in California, responsible for last year’s Camp Fire and this year’s Dixie Fire. The low ratings have a lot to do with CMP’s ever-growing price tag, combined with its poor track record for customer service.


It’s clear that Central Maine Power is not here for the people of Maine. If it was, it wouldn’t be spending $60 million to pass Question 1 and then sue when they don’t get their way. Rather than maintaining a company that prioritizes its shareholders and out-of-state business over its customers, it’s time we make the push for a public-owned utility to deliver more affordable electricity to Maine families.


There are several ongoing grassroots campaigns promoting the creation of a consumer-owned utility company in Maine. Our Power started its Citizen Initiative project in August to gather signatures and put Pine Tree Power Co., vetoed by Governor Mills in July, on the ballot in 2022. The organization argues that CMP and Versant currently charge their customers 58 percent more than one would pay to a consumer-owned utility, which also offers a more reliable grid, a faster transition to clean energy, and accountability to the people of Maine. Maine Public Power has also begun canvassing to collect the signatures needed for the referendum. Additional support has come from the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.


As we transition away from fossil fuels, having access to affordable electricity is becoming more and more critical for Maine’s working families. Mainers deserve a say in where their power comes from. They deserve a consumer-owned utility.


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