The administration of Gov. Janet Mills announced on November 10 it will soon begin distributing “disaster relief payments” passed as part of the supplemental budget that was approved by the Maine Legislature and signed into law by the governor at the end of June.
The payments of $285 will be distributed to 524,754 workers found eligible to receive them by the state tax assessor. Paper checks will be distributed through the mail beginning November 15. Eligible Mainers should receive the payments no later than December 31.
The supplemental budget authorized the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) to transfer $150 million from the General Fund’s unappropriated surplus and into a special revenue fund for COVID-19 disaster relief payments.
The payments were intended to “help eligible Maine citizens recover from economic impacts from the epidemic related to coronavirus disease 2019” by offsetting costs incurred as a result of the pandemic.
The amount of the payments was capped at $300 per person, but was ultimately determined by “dividing the amount of the funds available in the fund, reduced by allowable administrative costs that have not yet been withdrawn, by the total number of eligible Maine citizens, including the estimated number of unidentified eligible Maine citizens.”
To be eligible, residents had to have filed a state income tax return as a full-year resident for the 2020 tax year by October 31, 2021 and fall within income brackets designated by the law. Taxpayers who are married and filing jointly must have an income of under $150,000 to receive a payment, while single individuals and married persons filing separately must have made less than $75,000.
According to a statement announcing the payments released by the governor’s office, the state tax assessor identified 524,754 individuals eligible to receive the $149.8 million in the disaster relief payment fund. This means qualifying individuals are eligible to receive $285.46, but that number has been rounded down to $285.
“The number of eligible individuals may change as records are re-verified in batches as payments are issued, and so the payment amount has been rounded to an even $285 to ensure enough funding to provide payments to up to 860 additional eligible individuals,” the governor’s office announced in a statement.
The law also requires that any money left in the disaster relief payment fund at the close of the 2022-2023 fiscal year be returned to the General Fund.
Maine is not the only state providing some form of disaster relief payments to its residents.
Florida used money it received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide $1,000 stimulus checks to teachers and first responders. Using federal funds, both Georgia and Tennessee offered $1,000 bonuses to full-time teachers and $500 to part-time teachers. Michigan also made $500 hazard pay grants available to teachers.
In Maryland, taxpayers who filed for the earned income tax credit were eligible to receive stimulus checks of between $200 and $500 as part of the RELIEF Act, which also allowed taxpayers to subtract some coronavirus relief payments from their taxable income.
Idaho provided a one-time tax relief payment of $50 per taxpayer and dependent. The refund was part of a tax relief package designed to return some of the state’s budget surplus to taxpayers.
Alaska is also taking additional revenue earned from the state’s increased oil production and transferring it to a fund that will provide a $1,236 supplemental payment to residents.
Led by Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner), Maine Senate Republicans recently promoted their “Give It Back” plan, which would have returned some of Maine’s surplus revenue to the state’s residents.
However, the bill request containing the “Give it Back” plan was rejected by the Legislative Council when it met on October 25 to consider bill requests for the legislature’s upcoming second session.