Maine Lawmakers Invest $20 Million in Rural Communities
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lumber yards, and others are struggling to recover from the losses of the past year and a half, exacerbated by outdated technology that makes it hard to keep up with demand.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;
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.