Resources for Businesses
Updated May 22, 2020
Information for Businesses to Reopen under Maine’s Four-Stage Plan
Beginning on May 1, 2020, a new "Stay Safer at Home" order will be in effect in Maine as the first stage of a four-stage gradual reopening of the state. In this first stage, Mainers will be permitted to participate in activities and visit businesses that are deemed safe to reopen and have a low risk for potential transmission of COVID-19. Detailed information on Maine’s four-stage reopening plan can be found on the State of Maine website.
Visit the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development website for checklists for best safety practices for businesses that are approved to reopen under Stage 1 of the plan. In order to open, businesses must commit to complying with requirements of these checklists by filling out this short online form. Please note that licensed health care providers are not required to use this form.
DECD is also making badges for businesses using the checklist to voluntarily post on their doors, website or social media channels to help instill consumer confidence in their operations. Those badges will be found at maine.gov/decd when available.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program
The Maine Department of Labor will begin accepting applications for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program at 8 a.m. Friday, May 1.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal program which expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to certain categories of workers not typically able to receive unemployment in the past, such as:
- Self-employed workers
- Independent contractors
- Nonprofit employees not already covered by regular state unemployment benefits
- Gig economy workers
- Workers who do not have enough work history and earnings to be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits
- Others who have been determined ineligible for regular unemployment benefits
All claims will be retroactive to the date of business closure or job separation provided on the application, back until March 15. If work was lost earlier than that due to COVID-19, claimants will be able to provide documentation to show that in the near future. People whose claim does not require further review should begin receiving benefits within seven days of filing.
PUA benefits start at 50% of the average weekly state unemployment benefit for self-employed and those who do not meet monetary eligibility for regular unemployment. This is $172/week. If you are self-employed, once we are able to verify documented earnings, PUA benefits will be adjusted retroactively. The maximum benefit available under PUA is $445/week.
In addition, anyone who receives a PUA benefit also receives the full $600 additional weekly benefit from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which is available through July 25, 2020. Claimants will also need to file a certification every week in order to receive benefits.
Claimants under PUA should do the following:
- No action needed - Claimants who have been denied unemployment benefits due to not having enough earnings to qualify for state benefits do not need to reapply. Their claim in the system will automatically process.
- Claim must be updated - Those who are self-employed and who attempted to file for unemployment benefits before PUA was implemented must log-in to their online unemployment account and update their claim with their self-attestation of earnings.
- Claim must be filed - All others eligible for PUA but who had yet not filed a claim will should visit https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/ and fill out the new streamlined application form for PUA. Submit your weekly certification each week thereafter.
More information on PUA and instructions on how to apply can be found on MDOL’s website: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/pua/ .
Financial Resources for Businesses and Individuals
The Maine Department of Economic & Community Development has issued a guide to Resources in Response to COVID-19 Related Closures and Economic Disruption. This guide outlines financial resources to businesses and individuals that are administered by institutions such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). For businesses, these resources address deferments on existing loans as well as new emergency capital needs due to the impact of COVID-19. For individuals, there is a loan program administered through FAME that can help sole proprietorships and the self-employed.
As stated in this guide, the first step of any business or individual seeking assistance is to contact your own financial institution. Alerting your financial institution early is the best course of action.
Follow the links below for information from the Small Business Administration regarding 7a and 504 business loan deferments and other assistance programs for businesses suffering financial loss due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Also, Southern Maine Finance Agency may be able to provide assistance through its own loan programs. SMFA can be reached at https://smfamaine.org/ or at (207) 282-1748.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was just passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners and certain non-profits with whatever needs they have right now.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has created a Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that are available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has prepared a Q&A document on the Paycheck Protection Program portion of the CARES Act. This initiative will provide 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses. Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.
Small businesses and sole proprietors could begin applying on April 3. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals could apply beginning on April 10.
Economic Industry Disaster Loans (EIDL)
The CARES Act expands the Small Business Administration’s long-standing Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). The EIDL program was created to assist businesses, renters, and homeowners located in regions affected by declared disasters. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also prepared a Q&A document on this program.
Webinar on CARES Act
On April 7, the City of Biddeford’s Planning and Development Department hosted a webinar to share the resources that are available to small businesses through the SBA under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last week.
Assistance, through loans and grants, are available to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietorships, non-profit organizations and independent contractors. The webinar presented the Small Business Administration’s methodology for each program and provided live links on where to apply for assistance. Click here to review the materials from the webinar.
Essential Service Designation Request
On March 31, 2020, Governor Janet Mills issued a Stay Healthy at Home directive that requires people living in Maine to stay at home at all times unless for an essential job or an essential personal reason
Essential businesses include, but are not limited to: food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair and hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical and health care, child care, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and animal feed and supply stores, shipping stores, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.
If the function of your business is not listed in the guidance above, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business here. Requests by businesses to be designated an essential function should only be made if they are NOT covered by the guidance.
Governor Mills’ COVID-19 emergency legislation (LD 2167), which was enacted by the Legislature and signed into law March 18th, included temporary measures to enhance the flexibility of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program in order to support workers and businesses economically impacted by COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. These measures will help relieve the financial burden of temporary layoffs, isolation, and medically-necessary quarantine by making unemployment benefits available to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. This helps not only individuals, but also employers by helping them retain their workforce and stabilizing local economies.
The legislation temporarily revises eligibility requirements to include situations not typically covered, such as:
- An employer temporarily ceases operation due to COVID-19
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work once the quarantine is over
Please note, the legislation is not intended to provide sick leave or short-term disability payments. The legislation also waives the work search requirement for individuals still connected to their employer and waives the one-week waiting period so that benefits will be available sooner. In addition, any benefits paid under these provisions would not affect the employer’s experience rating record.
Self-employed individuals should wait to apply for unemployment until the State of Maine fixes the website to accept online applications from them.
Unemployment Insurance FAQs Regarding COVID-19 - Read a list from the Maine Department of Labor of frequently asked questions and answers for employees and employers.
Seeds of Hope is available for computer access to apply for unemployment Monday-Thursday 9:00am-12:00pm. One person at a time will be allowed access, practicing social distancing and sanitary protocols. Seeds of Hope is located at 35 South Street here in Biddeford.