In these unprecedented times, government must work for the people

By Sen. Dave Miramant | May 04, 2020

In late March, the federal government passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package in response to COVID-19. Like all crises, this one required swift, bold action from federal, state and local governments. But as we saw during the 2008 financial crisis –– when Wall Street got a massive bailout as Main Street suffered –– the wrong groups were able to take advantage of these moments of crisis.

That’s why it was infuriating, though not surprising, to learn that although the CARES Act created good programs designed to support small businesses, millions of dollars were doled out not to struggling small businesses, but to giant corporations and chains –– the businesses that are in the best position to weather this crisis.

Under pressure from small businesses left in the lurch, the federal government passed a second stimulus package, about half a trillion dollars, that is supposed to actually go to small businesses this time. It includes $322 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers U.S. Small Business Administration loans to help businesses keep their employees on payroll. There’s $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and other disaster loan programs, which are for communities and small businesses in underserved areas. There’s also $75 billion to support rural hospitals, as well as $25 billion to expand testing.

Small businesses –– crucial to our economy in Knox County and across the state –– have been hit hard by COVID-19. If you own or operate a small business, I hope this latest stimulus package will provide some relief. For information about the Paycheck Protection Program, visit mainesbdc.org, the website of the Maine Small Business Development Centers. Or, for information about SBA Disaster Loans, visit sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance. Gov. Janet Mills applied for this funding in March, and Maine was one of the first states to be approved.

In ordinary times, we depend on government that works for the people –– at town halls, at the State House, in the halls of Congress and in the White House. In unprecedented times like these, we depend even more on government of, by and for the people. Because of this, it is important that we begin to open our state and revive our economy in a way that recognizes the challenges at hand. We were successful at flattening the curve by practicing physical distancing and improved sanitation. By practicing these methods and proving their effectiveness, we can begin to open businesses as long as they follow proper safety precautions.

The governor laid out a plan for reopening with a long time-frame. I am encouraging her to respond quickly as we find ways for more restrictions to be loosened, while also protecting both our residents and our businesses. We have a long way to go before everything feels normal, but if we can avoid hurting businesses from restrictions that are one-size-fits all, we will do a great service to our communities.

As your state senator, my overarching focus has always been to make government either work for the people, or get out of the way. During this crisis and beyond, I will do everything I can to make our government work for you. If there’s ever anything I can do for you, please contact me at: David.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov or 287-1515.

Sen. Dave Miramant represents coastal Knox County in the Maine Senate.

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