Maine finally sends support to small businesses months after their forced closure


Better late than never, I suppose.

Maine finally began disbursing grants to struggling small businesses and nonprofits with CARES Act funds this week, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration announced Thursday. Small businesses and nonprofits waited more than six months to receive some form of economic relief from the state government that forced their closure earlier this year.

The Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program disbursed 2,329 grants to 2,072 small businesses and 257 nonprofits on Thursday, totaling $105 million in grants with an average award of $45,000. According to the release, 35% of the awards went to businesses in Maine’s hospitality sector, one of the industries most impacted by the governor’s economic restrictions during the pandemic.

Maine’s small business relief program was announced in August and allocates just $200 million of the $1.25 billion Maine received from the CARES Act to help small businesses. This is $150 million short of the recommendation made by governor’s economic recovery committee.

“While these funds will not make them whole, they offer some lifeline to keep afloat those small businesses that are at the core of our economy. I encourage all eligible businesses and nonprofits to apply for the second round of this relief as I continue to call on Congress to provide more direct aid to the State of Maine,” Gov. Mills said in a statement.

Businesses can apply to receive grants in the more expansive second phase of assistance until October 23. The second phase of the governor’s economic relief program makes businesses and nonprofits with up to 250 employees eligible for relief, as well as childcare and behavioral health entities and businesses and nonprofits less than one year old. Eligibility and application information can be found here.

Next door in New Hampshire, businesses got more relief and it came much sooner. Gov. Chris Sununu announced the creation of the “Main Street Relief Fund” program in May and made $400 million in CARES Act funds available to small businesses in the Granite State as early as mid-June. The first wave of grants in New Hampshire gave 5,466 applicants an average grant of $61,905. The state’s second round of economic assistance makes another $100 million available to small businesses.

After forcing small businesses and nonprofits to close their doors at the start of the pandemic, any form of assistance from the state is welcome, but one must ask what took Gov. Mills so long to deliver. The governor spent months begging the federal government for a bailout, and it seems she forgot about the struggling small businesses in her state until the late summer.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to apply for economic relief came too late for many small businesses. Maine Policy Institute has tracked the permanent closure of more than 90 businesses across the state since March.


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