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Some unemployed Maine residents to get one-time $600 payment

December 9, 2020 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Some Maine residents who are unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic will receive a one-time payment of $600, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration said Wednesday.

Mills, a Democrat, said the payments are part of the state’s new Pandemic Relief Program and they are intended to assist unemployed people in Maine who might lose federal unemployment benefits at the end of the month. Mills and other Maine leaders have called on the federal government to extend unemployment benefits nationwide.

The payments will go to self-employed people, people who are sole proprietors and other business owners who are unemployed and losing federal benefits this month, Mills said.

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“While this relief payment is not enough to make unemployed Maine people whole, it is our hope it will serve as a lifeline to sustain them during the holidays and until Federal support arrives,” Mills said.

Mills said the payments will be funded by $25.2 million in federal coronavirus relief money. As many as 42,000 people could be eligible for it, state officials said.

In other Maine virus news:

SEAFOOD PROMOTED

Seafood is a big part of Maine’s culture and history, and the state wants home cooks to use more of it during the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s the focus of a branding and promotion initiative the Maine Department of Marine Resources is launching. The effort will use $1 million in federal coronavirus aid to help consumers discover and use more Maine seafood, said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

Retail seafood sales are up 35% compared to this time last year, the marine resources department said. However, the seafood industry is also heavily reliant on restaurant sales, which have cratered since the pandemic started.

Keliher said the goal of the promotion is to show that “consumers can trust that their seafood products, from shellfish to seaweed and halibut to haddock will be the highest quality, best tasting seafood on earth.”

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THE NUMBERS

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 3.41%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2.09% on Nov. 24 to 3.41% on Dec. 8.

Public health authorities in Maine have reported more than 14,400 cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic. They’ve also reported 246 deaths.

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UMAINE SPORTS

The University of Maine’s winter athletics schedule is set to resume.

The UMaine Black Bears athletics programs are the only NCAA Division 1 programs in the state in sports including basketball and ice hockey. The winter sports seasons will resume with a women’s basketball game at Providence College on Thursday, the university said in a statement.

UMaine men’s ice hockey games scheduled against rival University of New Hampshire have been moved to Durham, New Hampshire, for Friday and Saturday. The university said in a statement that it “continues to monitor developments with the pandemic closely and assess opportunities to host home games in adherence with University of Maine System and public health guidance.”

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HEALTH GRANTS

Two Maine health centers have been awarded a total of nearly $3.7 million from the federal government to help with screening and testing needs and other necessities stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s two U.S. senators said. The funding will benefit HealthReach Community Health Centers and Health Access Network, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said Wednesday.

The funding will benefit residents of some of Maine’s northern and central counties, the senators said.