Friday, April 10, 2020

Resources for businesses and workers

By Sen. Bill Diamond

As we face one of the worst pandemics in a century, this is a moment that requires all of us to step up and do our part. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is necessary to protect our community and reduce the burden on our health care system. The only way to do that effectively right now is for everyone who can stay home to do so. 

This is a moment that has required our local businesses to make sacrifices. Essential businesses and
their workers have quickly stepped up to keep our community supplied with the things we need, while doing what they can to limit the spread of COVID-19. Other businesses in our community have shut down or have significantly altered their operations to protect public health.

For businesses that find themselves struggling financially during this time, there are some resources available. The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has become a sort of clearinghouse for information on the programs available to businesses during these trying times. This includes federal programs, such as the Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the US Small Business Administration, and loan programs from the state. They also handle “essential” and “non-essential” business designations. For more information visit, call 1-800-872-3838 or email

Workers have also been asked to step up. Those in the health care field find themselves in an uncertain and scary situation every day when they show up for work, as do workers at grocery stores and other essential businesses. Many of these workers have kids who now have to stay home from school, creating additional challenges for parents. These people are heroes in our community, and they deserve our support and gratitude.

Other workers have been asked to stay home from work, while many others have been put out of work altogether. Last week, more than 23,000 people filed for unemployment in Maine, and more than 21,000 did so the week before that. To put those numbers in context, leading up to this crisis, the Department of Labor typically processed about 800 such claims a week. 

If you have been laid off, had your hours reduced or are otherwise out of work because of the COVID-19 outbreak, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. To apply, visit or call 1-800-593-7660. Please note that call wait times have been very long as the Department works to process an unprecedented number of claims. 

Finally, we must all continue to look out for our own health. If you feel symptoms, such as a cough, a fever, fatigue, or difficulty breathing –– which are symptoms of COVID-19 –– call your primary care provider or the health care facility you normally use. It’s important that folks don’t just show up unexpected, as that can further spread the disease.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or just need someone to talk to, you can call or text the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112 or use their online chat at

For any questions about COVID-19 and Maine’s response, you can call 211, text your zip code to 898-211 or email You can also visit for up-to-date information on measures taken in Maine.

I am also here as a resource and am happy to help in any way I can. You may call my office at (207) 287-1515 or send me an email at Let’s get through this together.

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