With a void of leadership in Washington, the state is stepping up to provide relief.
Government has a core responsibility to help provide relief related to this public health crisis; to those being impacted financially, assist those in need of care, coordinate emergency response, and support our front-line health professionals. The Legislature passed a sweeping package in direct emergency response.
We expanded unemployment insurance benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19. We need the Feds to grant the ability for folks who previously weren’t paying into the system or didn’t qualify for benefits to be able to expand it to that population like self-employed, nonprofits etc. We are communicating with our Congressional delegation on that piece. Apply for unemployment using this link: http://reemployme.maine.gov.
We established a consumer loan guarantee program to help eligible Mainers access no-interest loans. This program will be administered by FAME and the loans will be given by banks and credit unions. The State guarantees the loans. The loans do not need to be repaid during a specified period of time. Maximum loan amount is $5,000. This can be used by anyone including self-employed individuals and others not covered under the unemployment system. Details can be found at FAMEMAINE.com.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved Governor Mills’ application for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help Maine businesses overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 Relief Business Direct Loan Program provides FAME Direct Loans of up to $50,000 with special terms available to Maine-based businesses experiencing interruption or hardship due to COVID-19. Details also found at FAMEMAINE.com.
We created a COVID-19 response fund (with $11 million to start) to address unanticipated needs as they arise through January 15, 2021. Governor can tap these funds at anytime and can add additional funds as needed
The health and well-being of our children is critical to our future. This year in the Legislature, we passed vital laws to make sure our kids are safe and healthy both at home and in school.
One of my bills aimed at tackling the bullying issue in our schools passed with unanimous bipartisan support.
I introduced LD 1306 to review and overhaul Maine’s bullying laws because of the outcry from parents and students alike around this issue. As someone who was bullied all throughout school, I know the long-lasting pain that bullying can cause. I want to do everything I can to ensure young people feel safe in school, feel accepted, and feel like they can be true to themselves without fear of retribution from their peers. No parent should have to feel compelled to take a child out of a school because of bullying. If there are proper protocols in place for prevention and intervention, bullying will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
Homeownership is the entry point to the middle class and secures long term wealth. For many people, it provides a path towards retirement. One barrier to homeownership is a high property tax bill. Property taxes are the most regressive form of taxation.
Mainers need property tax relief, especially for seniors on fixed income and families working hard to get by.
When I was the Ranking Democrat on the Taxation Committee, I led the charge to increase the Homestead Exemption Program in 2017 and the Property Tax Fairness Credit in 2018.
This year, this past legislative session, we built on that success.
This was the most impactful legislative session in recent memory for advancing policies to protect our environment, promote a green energy industry, and fight climate change.
As a member of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, I believe combating climate change is vital to preserving Maine’s natural resources-based economy and our overall way of life.
That’s why we passed laws to invest in local clean energy projects, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, stabilize energy costs and support good paying green energy jobs.
This past July, I spent almost an entire month in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Why? To take on a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
The Victory Institute and the David Bohnett Foundation named me a leadership fellow and awarded me a full ride scholarship to graduate from the Senior Executives in State nd Local Government program at Harvard.
This 3-week leadership development program was transformational. It was a balance of traditional and hands-on learning experiences to help fellow public officials better address the concerns of our constituents and communities.
Since 2015, I’ve provided scholarships to students throughout our local community. My nonprofit scholarship fund at Thornton Academy and Old Orchard Beach High School has provided over $5,000 worth of scholarships so far. And we’re just getting started.
My objective with the scholarships has been to empower the next generation into leadership and service.
To ensure young people follow their passions along a path that best fits their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Sure, a $500 scholarship might not seem much when it comes to tackling the ever-increasing cost of higher education, but every little bit goes a long way.
It’s been an honor getting to meet talented and passionate students who are limitless in their pursuit of their education.
Every year, I gain a more positive outlook for the future because of them. They inspire me to do and be better.
We marked a new era this past session of the legislature. The statehouse was filled with something it hasn’t had in over eight years; civility, respect, and mutual cooperation.
I haven’t had the best situations to compare it to. The only Governor I’ve ever known while serving in the legislature has been Gov. Paul LePage.
Sadly, this is a bad example of what is required in a position of leadership. It was the epitome of fear-based politics that erodes the very fabric of the institution itself. I vividly remember Republican legislators being yelled at and bullied behind the scenes to vote with the Governor over common sense, values, and facts.
One even was brought to tears over the treatment and that was on the same side of the proverbial aisle. It threw a wrench into any hopes of bipartisanship agreements and instead replaced with daily unnecessary drama.
What a difference an election makes. This session was entirely a complete 180 thanks in part to the leadership of Gov. Mills, Senate President Troy Jackson, and Speaker of the House Sara Gideon.
After pulling my first all-nighter since college, we worked nearly 24 hours straight until 6:45 a.m. on the final day of session to finish the people’s business. As I recovered from sleep deprivation, I’ve been reflecting over the positive outcomes over the last six months.
Long lines. Waiting in the cold. Shoving. Throngs of people. Images of Black Friday can literally terrify people. As someone who has spent many a Black Friday hunting for the best deals for Christmas gifts, it can be an exhaustive mess navigating the chaotic annual occurrence.
There is an alternative. One that is more positive and that deviates from the traditional Big Box stores we too often rely on. It’s called Small Business Saturday. It arrives the day following Black Friday and is aptly named to focus on the smaller establishments among us that deserve our business.
Last year, I learned that patients in Maine could effectively be denied access to the licensed health care provider of their choice when a woman from Old Orchard Beach, Mary, shared her health care story with me. Mary suffers from Lyme Disease - an infectious disease that is becoming increasingly more common in Maine. Yet, she had difficult time finding doctor who specializes in Lyme treatment that would also be covered by insurance. After finding a naturopathic doctor that worked for her, she was excited to learn that Affordable Care Act required naturopathic doctors to be covered by insurance. Unfortunately, her private insurance representative told her that, while the naturopathic doctor was a covered provider, her specific insurance policy did not cover naturopathy.
I had a dream most of my life – to run a nonprofit organization. In summer 2013, I made it a reality.
The Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement was born out of a need to house creative community service projects that didn’t quite fit within the area’s existing nonprofits; projects and initiatives that I and others in the community always wanted to do but didn’t have an outlet for.
Now, five years and countless fundraisers and projects later, we are saying goodbye.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco