AUGUSTA – The purpose of the press conference held by Governor Janet Mills yesterday afternoon was billed as Mills laying out her “vision” for reopening Maine. Ultimately, the event lacked the details Mainers were expecting. Instead, Mills rehashed talking points about public safety and said that “government alone cannot fix this” at a time when more Mainers than ever before are dependent on the government because their livelihoods have been cut off by her stay at home order.
“While we all dream of going back to the way things were, we have to face the hard truth that the coronavirus continues to be a threat and that life will not return to normal soon. Instead, we have to invent a new normal – a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and recreating that keeps all of us safe,” said Governor Mills.
Mills said her administration is relying on criteria from Maine CDC to make decisions but did not offer any additional information that criteria, or target dates for reopening.
One new announcement Mills did offer was a new online portal for Mainers to submit their ideas and suggestions for how to reopen Maine.
“We invite all Maine people to take part in the discussion,” said Governor Mills. “Give us your specific ideas on how we can do things differently, how we can restart the economy and keep all our people safe and healthy. We want to hear from you.”
That announcement was seen by advocates of restarting Maine’s economy as an admission that Mills really doesn’t have a plan.
LePage says he would start reopening Maine’s rural counties first, with social distancing measures in place. The last two counties he would open would be York and Cumberland because they have the most community transmission.
Another key element of LePage’s plan is fixing Maine’s unemployment system, which has languished for weeks leaving thousands of Mainers without the benefits they have applied for.
Other details laid out by LePage also address nursing homes, hospitals and the state budget, which Mills has yet to really address.
Governor Mills’ suggestion box page says the administration strives “to have a transparent process” but multiple news outlets have reported that her administration has taken steps to maintain a level of secrecy beyond other states.
Those situations and others have drawn the ire of the Maine press and public, who wonder why Maine is not releasing the same information other states are providing.
While Mills highlighted what she called “collaboration” with Governors of two other New England states in her written statement, the only evidence of that Mills provided at her press conference was saying she had been on conference calls with those governors discussing locations and industries that should open at the same time to mitigate travel among states.
In dealing with Maine’s unemployment system, one of the most acute points of pain for many Mainers, Governor Mills claimed that on a recent conference call of the nation’s governors she did not hear any governor say they had successfully implemented the new federal unemployment for self-employed individuals.
Earlier in the day, however, the non-profit group Maine People Before Politics said that four New England states were now able to accept unemployment applications from the self-employed. Those states are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island. MPBP says Connecticut will have their system online April 30th.