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Maine communities making plans to spend latest pandemic aid

August 16, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine municipalities and counties plan to spend American Rescue Plan Act funding on everything from bonuses for front-line workers to infrastructure projects.

Allowed expenses include public health measures, hazard pay for public and private front-line workers, business grants, affordable housing, child care and other costs resulting from revenue losses or budget shortfalls, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Maine’s 16 counties are receiving $261 million and the state’s six largest cities are getting $121.6 million directly from the U.S. Treasury. The Mills administration received a 30-day extension to disburse another $119 million to 479 smaller communities.

“It is our goal to distribute these funds quickly and we expect Maine communities to have them in hand in short order,” said Kelsey Goldsmith, department spokesperson.

Municipalities and counties have some time to figure out how to use the money, but it must be committed by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

In other pandemic-related news:

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VACCINE MANDATE

Dozens of people turned out in Augusta to protest Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills announced last week that health care workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

The protest on Monday was the third in as many days. There were similar protests over the weekend in Bangor and Portland.

A Maine Department of Health and Human Services survey indicates 80.3% of staff at hospitals, 73% of staff at nursing facilities, and 68.2% of staff at intermediate care facilities with intellectual disabilities have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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HOULTON CLOSURES

Several businesses in Houlton have closed temporarily because of a spike in COVID-19 infections.

The Houlton Town Office already closed last week after several employees tested positive and others were quarantined because of contact with them. The Cary Library in Houlton is also closed because of infections.

Houlton Regional Hospital has seen an increase in activity in recent days. It is prepared to take on new patients, CEO Shawn Anderson told the Bangor Daily News.

“We’ve been busy in the hospital, but are not at capacity,” Anderson said.