|March 25, 2020
State House Highlights of the Week
Governor Mills Tuesday issued another Executive Order. The latest order did not call for Mainers to shelter at home, however directed all nonessential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations to the public. The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and lasts for two weeks.
It is critical to note, the Executive Order specifically outlines the following health care services as essential:
Pharmacy and other medical, psychiatric, and long-term care facilities,
Group homes and residential treatment facilities, and
Biomedical, life science, behavioral health, health care, dental care, long-term care services.
Physician practices ARE considered essential businesses.
The order also mandates the closure of nonessential business sites that require more than 10 workers to convene in a space where physical distancing is not possible. Nonessential businesses and operations that do not involve in-person contact or allow employees to work remotely can remain open.
The Governor’s press release specifically urged high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including:
For stores with a physical retail space of more than 5,000 feet, limiting customers to no more than 100 at any one time,
Enhancing their curbside pick-up and delivery services,
Staggering their hours for shoppers of a certain age,
Closing fitting rooms,
Cautioning customers against handling merchandise they are not purchasing,
Marking six-foot measurements by the cashier stations and reminding customers to remain six feet apart while in store,
Staggering break times for employees and require frequent handwashing,
Frequently sanitizing high-touch areas, such as shopping carts
The order does NOT prevent people from leaving their homes. In fact, the Governor strongly recommended people to continue outside exercise activities such as dog walking while emphasizing proactive social distancing to limit the spread of the virus by urging people to stay away from municipal playgrounds, beaches and avoid all gatherings of people.
The cities of Portland, Bangor and Brunswick also approved more stringent ‘shelter-in-place’ measures this week preventing residents from traveling or leaving their homes except to go to work, buy essential items and groceries, go to the doctor or exercise. Violations of the Portland order are punishable by a fine of up to $500 per person or business for each infraction.
Congress Working On A $2 Trillion Coronavirus Response Bill
The Republican led United States Senate was finally set to vote Wednesday on $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill. Senate leaders announced in the early hours of the day that a compromise was reached on a bipartisan piece of legislation that was in the works since midweek last week, to help workers, businesses and people nationwide. However, the deal seemingly collapsed midday Wednesday. Regardless, the Democratically led House of Representatives would need to review the final Senate bill after a vote to determine a course of action. House members are scattered around the country and the timetable for votes in that chamber are unclear. There is discussion among House Democratic and Republican leaders to achieve enough members for a voting quorum present and possibly pass the bill for the President signature by a simple voice vote without having to call all representatives back to Washington.
Highlights of the massive 500+ pages piece of legislation would send $1,200 checks to many Americans, create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states. Other provisions include $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds and $130 billion for hospitals. It would also offer greater unemployment insurance benefits, expanded eligibility and offer workers an additional $600 a week for four months, on top of what states pay. The MMA is still working with the MMA to uncover any direct physician practice provisions.
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