WASHINGTON D.C. – Maine’s small businesses are seizing the opportunity to apply for a program that provides federal funding for small businesses to keep paying their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The early success of the program means tens of thousands of Mainers who work for small businesses across Maine will keep getting paid despite their employer being forced to close or reduce operations.
More than 1,800 Maine employers have been approved for more than $500 million in federal loans that will be forgiven as long as the employers keep regular paychecks flowing to all their employees and use the loan funds for approved purposes. The program, part of the federal CAREs ACT, went live on Friday after being signed into law by President Donald Trump.
“As of 4PM today, 1,816 Maine employers will receive $510,891,620 in Paycheck Protection Plan loans. These forgivable loans will help keep paychecks coming for the tens of thousands of Mainers who work at a small business. Together, we will weather the storm caused by COVID-19,” said Collins.
The program is designed to keep the employees of small businesses employed instead of forcing them into the unemployment system and help small businesses keep retain their employees.
Along with using the forgivable loans to cover payroll, small businesses can also use the funds for utilities and rent – essentially covering the overhead of small businesses that have been severely impacted or forced to close by Governor Janet Mills’ stay-at-home order.
In addition to keeping small businesses employees collecting a full paycheck instead of a reduced income through unemployment, the program may eventually relieve some from the Maine Department of Labor. Maine’s unemployment offices continue to struggle to manage the massive number of calls and applications flooding into state offices following the issuance of the stay-at-home order.
Officials at the Department of Labor have made changes of late to try and better organize themselves to handle the crush of applicants and calls, but so far do not appear to have cracked the code on managing the bottle neck.
Under the program authored by Senator Collins, small businesses can re-hire employees and restore full salary levels for changes made between February 26 and April 26, 2020 and still qualify for federal loan forgiveness.
Senator Collins has shifted her focus to ensuring Maine’s small businesses are aware of the opportunity to protect their employees in recent days, running a television ad (screenshot at top) letting Mainers know about the program through her re-election campaign.