Inside Augusta

Governor Mills signals changes are coming to her plan to reopen Maine’s economy

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Governor Janet Mills alluded to forthcoming changes to her plan to reopen Maine’s economy Wednesday during a press conference with Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah. Gov. Mills joined the briefing Wednesday to announce the creation of an “Economic Recovery Committee” to examine the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown on Maine’s economy.

The 37-member committee is co-chaired by former state economist and president of Thomas College, Laurie Lachance, and Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson. The lawmakers appointed to the committee include Rep. Josh Morris of Turner, Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, Sen. Lisa Keim of Oxford and Sen. Michael Carpenter of Aroostook. Maine’s Congressional Delegation has also been invited to participate in an ex-officio capacity.

The remaining members of the committee include representatives of interest groups across the economy, unions and nonprofits. The committee is tasked with releasing a preliminary report by July 15 and a final report by December 1.

The committee is not charged with addressing the current public health situation or planning the reopening of Maine’s economy. Mills made clear during the press conference that Heather Johnson of the Department of Economic and Community Development continues to spearhead the work related to the state’s reopening plan and timeline.

Mills said her administration continues to receive feedback on the plan she released last week and is “looking closely every day at opportunities to pursue regional variations in terms of timing of reopening, particularly for rural counties.” Mills said she is “hopeful” and her administration may have changes to announce in the coming days.

In response to a question from Steve Mistler of Maine Public related to allowing restaurants to open earlier than June 1 if they offer outdoor dining service, Mills said her team is, “thinking about making some changes before Memorial Day, I’d like to make changes before Memorial Day. I think we’ll have more to say on that later this week.”

As part of New Hampshire’s reopening plan, restaurants are allowed to open for outdoor dining service on May 18. Under Gov. Mills’ current plan, restaurants cannot open until June 1.

The reopening plan released by Governor Mills and her administration on April 28 has come under heavy fire from the state’s hospitality and tourism industry, as well as various municipalities that have asked for permission to create their own reopening timelines.

On Wednesday, Maine Policy Institute delivered a petition to Governor Mills with more than 5,400 signatures from Maine citizens urging her to revise her reopening plan with something that more adequately balances public health with the state’s economic needs.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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