The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan
Strengthening Maine’s Economy & Supporting Maine’s Families, Businesses, Communities
The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan to invest nearly $1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan stimulus funds to achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization.
It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.
Approved the Legislature in July, the legislation enacting the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan takes effect on October 18, 2021. Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion to Maine earlier this year.
Over coming weeks and months, the Mills Administration will introduce Plan investments to address known, systemic challenges that have constrained Maine’s ability to grow and thrive, with priority focus on investments to grow and develop Maine’s workforce.
With more than $300 million in planned workforce investments through education and skills training programs, workforce housing, childcare, worker attraction, and business supports, the Jobs Plan aims to make a measurable impact on Maine’s workforce trends and build an economy poised for future growth.
With the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Governor Mills is prepared for swift and decisive actions to invest in Maine’s economic recovery and create long-term economic growth for Maine people, businesses and communities.
Approved initiatives listed below have determined to be eligible per U.S. Treasury guidance and the funding has been authorized.
- Recovery Grants $20M
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development is putting forward $5 million of the $20 million allocated to the program in total for grants targeted at supporting capital intensive businesses that still need to immediate short-term help to sustain operations.
More specifically, the $5 million will be put towards expense-based grant relief to help businesses and non-profits with significant expenses related to loans and interest they incurred in order to sustain operations. The loans must be in deferral as a direct result of the pandemic and the business must demonstrate least 20 percent lost revenue in the year 2021. Applications for the program will open November 1, 2021.
The remaining $15 million will then be made available in April 2022 in order for businesses and non-profits to easily utilize tax returns to demonstrate financial impact of the pandemic on their businesses and, therefore, qualify for a funding based on need. This approach – stabilizing businesses most in need now followed by larger grants later on – was developed by DECD in conjunction with the business community.
- Lower Health Care Costs for Small Businesses: $39M
Beginning on November 1, 2021 and running through April 30, 2023, the program will help small businesses offer affordable health insurance to their workers – a critical benefit in recruiting and retaining workers as Maine recovers from the pandemic.
Under the program, health insurers will receive financial assistance through the Maine Bureau of Insurance to reduce premiums for their small business customers by $50 per covered employee per month. Relief increases for couples and families to $80 for one adult and a child, $100 for two adults, and $130 for two adults and a child. Small businesses then split these savings with their workers, based on the share of the total premium the employers and employees would otherwise pay. Employers could also choose to pass on more or all of the savings to their workers.
The program comes after monthly health insurance premiums in the small group market, which serves businesses with 50 or fewer employees, rose by about 33 percent from March 2017 to March 2020, while the number of people insured dropped 18 percent from 61,200 to 50,200. The pandemic, meanwhile, has hurt many small businesses, reducing their revenues at a time when they are confronting increased costs, including health insurance.
- Replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund: $80M
State unemployment insurance is paid to eligible Maine people through the Maine Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded by employer taxes. A preliminary projection by the Maine Department of Labor indicates unemployment taxes for Maine businesses would increase by an estimated 60 percent for 2022, unless the Fund is replenished.
This $80 million transfer is the Governor’s third infusion into the fund, building on two previous transfers totaling nearly $300 million. Without these investments from the Governor, the Maine Department of Labor estimates that employer unemployment taxes in both 2021 and 2022 likely would have more than doubled.
Upcoming initiatives listed below have have been enacted into law and final eligibility per U.S. Treasury guidance is pending. This list will be updated.
- Invest in Heritage Industries: $50M
The economic disruption of the pandemic has made investment in heritage industries – farming, fishing, and forest products — urgent to stabilize these core economic engines of Maine’s rural areas. By investing in these industries, Maine can help these key economic sectors develop new product and market opportunities and sustain important, good paying jobs across our state.
Agricultural Infrastructure and Processing: $20M
Maine is home to 7,600 farms of all sizes, scales, and agricultural practices. Before the pandemic, the agricultural community’s inadequate and aging infrastructure hindered the state’s local food economy. The pandemic exacerbated these challenges when market and supply chain disruptions forced producers, processors, and value-added businesses to adapt rapidly to access new markets and distribution channels.
A recent Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry survey of Maine farmers about infrastructure needs indicated off-site storage, processing, and packaging capacity are priority investment areas. Although results remain preliminary, more than 50 percent of responded that investments of up to $100,000 would make a significant impact.
Immediate investments in Maine’s farms and food processors support the growth and sustainability of farms and farm families, increase the supply of local food to meet state food consumption goals, and enhance Maine’s agricultural exports while reducing the state’s reliance on food imports.
Forest Products & Manufacturing: $20M
Maine’s forest products industry is a resilient, forward-looking sector. From value-added products like mass timber, to emerging demand for bioplastics and biofuels, a significant opportunity exists to grow this sector, create jobs and economic security in rural Maine, and drive the future of modern, efficient building products and energy solutions, while supporting jobs and sustainable forests. With this funding, the Maine Technology Institute will deploy grants and loans for research and development, new products and market opportunities, and job growth in innovative forest products industries.
Seafood Facilities and Processing: $10M
Urgent investment in Maine’s commercial seafood and aquaculture sectors is needed in response to the severe economic disruption of COVID-19. Many seafood facilities were forced to reconfigure their space and product lines due to the pandemic, and thus far, no relief programs have helped mitigate those costs. Furthermore, there is an unmet need for facility upgrade/normal capital expenditure programs.
This funding will allow the Department of Marine Resources and Maine Technology Institute to deploy grants and loans for seafood distributors and processing facilities to spur greater resilience and growth in Maine’s seafood industry.
- Provide Loan Guarantees: $58M
Offering low-cost capital to Maine businesses through loan guarantees will help spur reinvestment and keep employees working.
- Jumpstart Innovation: $40M
These funds will expand public sector business support through increased research and development spending, investments in innovation, and public-private partnerships to generate new economic activity in Maine.
Maine’s investment in research and development, a key driver of economic growth, has ranked among the lowest in the nation. To grow the economy, strategic investments in forward-looking industries and economic opportunities in emerging industries are critical.
The State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy has identified certain sectors – such as biological and life sciences, for example – that align Maine’s strengths with global market opportunity. The Economic Recovery Committee urged innovation investment via public-private partnerships that could recruit companies to Maine in industry sectors that can improve the economy in rural counties.
- Sustain New Businesses and Entrepreneurs: $8M
Despite making important upfront investments to start operations, new businesses were often overlooked by Federal relief programs because they could not demonstrate the revenue losses needed to qualify. These funds aim to support these new businesses, along with entrepreneurs who recently acquired Maine businesses, and help them survive the pandemic and set a strong foundation for future growth.
- Encourage Business Diversity: $3M
Encouraging and supporting business owners from underrepresented backgrounds will enhance Maine’s business diversity, create new investment opportunities, and connect these business owners to further financing options through Federal programs.
These funds will support technical assistance, outreach, training, marketing, and access-to-capital programs for business owners from underrepresented backgrounds, build upon successful support programs to scale them more broadly, and explore how the State could encourage business diversity through State procurement.
- Establish A Domestic Trade Program: $15M
Maine is 17th in the nation for demand satisfied by imports, and many small businesses lack the necessary resources to expand their customer bases, which was exacerbated by the disruption caused by the pandemic.
A domestic trade program would provide small- to mid-sized businesses in Maine support to identify and access new markets by providing market data, marketing support, and consulting services. This program will also feature a business-to-business campaign to connect Maine companies to local vendors to purchase services and products.
Expand and Strengthen Maine's Workforce
- Health Care Workforce Initiative: $21M
Health care employs more workers than any other job sector in Maine, yet critical worker shortages existed in Maine prior to the pandemic and have been exacerbated by it. These shortages limit access to quality care, particularly in behavioral health and long-term care; increase costs; and affect Maine’s ability to attract talented workers since quality health care is often a priority for relocation.
- Train Workers Through Maine’s CTEs & Higher Education Systems: $105M
To meet workforce development needs in emerging economic sectors, in alignment with the 10-year Economic Development Strategy, these funds will support infrastructure and equipment upgrades for Maine’s Career and Technical Education centers ($20M) that advance programs and curricula for high school students, new University of Maine System ($35M) and Maine Community College System ($35M) targeted workforce programs, and competitive grants available to all higher education institutions in Maine. ($15M)
- Launch A Workforce Transportation Pilot: $5M
Expanding access to reliable transportation, especially in rural Maine, to connect workers to employment opportunities supports economic security and workforce development, especially in rural areas where transportation options are limited.
This $5 million in funding, as competitive grants from the Department of Transportation, will support local, regional, or state Workforce Transportation Pilot Projects to connect workers and employers and create community and economic benefits with funding for small buses and vans, as well as program start-up costs.
- Build More Affordable Housing for Maine’s Workforce: $60M
Maine’s surging real estate market during the pandemic has put home ownership and rental opportunities out of reach for many Maine families, and displaced renters from stable housing opportunities.
$50 million of these funds would be used to expand housing options that are affordable to workers and their families to own or rent, through existing financing programs through MaineHousing, as well as new incentives in partnership with DECD. They would also provide planning and technical assistance for communities, developers, and builders to encourage construction or production of affordable, energy efficient housing units close close to service and employment centers to support families and reduce commuting times.
These funds also include $10 million for grants to support existing emergency homeless shelters, and $1.5 million for housing navigators at MaineHousing to assist tenants
with locating housing and the rental application process, and to provide supportive services to promote successful landlord-tenant relationships.
- Clean Energy Partnerships: $8M
Clean energy jobs are the fastest growing job sector in the country. Careers spanning from electricians to HVAC technicians to engineers offer good-paying jobs for established workers seeking new opportunities and young people seeking careers. However, Maine’s overall shortage of skilled workers is an obstacle to filling these jobs, and Maine lags other New England states in its number of clean energy jobs per capita.
The Clean Energy Partnership will support clean energy and energy efficiency job growth through workforce development programs developed in partnership with industry and education leaders. This sector-focused initiative will establish clear training pathways for clean energy careers, support internships and apprenticeship programs, and create an online platform for attracting workers, sharing training opportunities, and highlighting job opportunities. The Partnership will also target investments to encourage innovative clean energy companies in Maine through the Maine Technology Institute.
- Connect Workers to Job Opportunities: $15M
To help the state’s 10-year economic strategy move forward, these funds will enhance coordination efforts in the labor market. There are gaps between the types of skills needed and existing and available workers, and communication gaps for workers to match with available jobs.
These ARP funds offer an opportunity to build new infrastructure and start pilot programs to support skill advancement, outreach, and build the bridge that connects workers to open opportunities, establish services for emerging industries, expand supports for employers and workers, and enhance program outreach and evaluation.
- Attract and Retain Workers: $5M
These funds will support worker attraction and relocation programs that encourage long-term residency in Maine.
- Expand the Maine Career Exploration Program: $25M
This initiative will expand the Maine Career Exploration program, part of the State’s 10-year Economic Strategy. To help students explore career opportunities geared to their interests, students in the program would have one paid internship between their junior year of high school and one year after graduation. To provide accessible and affordable education and training for working adults, the program will also offer incentives and assistance to workers and employers to access training and skills development opportunities.
- Create the Remote Worker Welcome Program: $5M
With Maine as just one of 10 locations in the U.S. to successfully attract new residents to live and work remotely during the pandemic, further strengthening the attraction and integration of remote workers into our communities is an economic growth opportunity.
These funds will support outreach to potential remote workers and their employers; grants for communities to welcome and integrate remote workers and their families; and funding for collaborative workspaces to help remote workers engage in local communities and economies.
- Advance Equity: $8M
To promote diversity, equity and inclusion in Maine’s workforce, these funds will support engagement with Maine’s racial and ethnic communities, tribal communities, the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, and other underrepresented and marginalized communities to reduce economic and employment barriers and advance opportunity for Maine people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, races, genders, religions, and socio-economic statuses.
- Achieve Universally Available Broadband: $21M
The lack of high-speed broadband access in communities across the state continues to exacerbate the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. From students who are unable to log into remote school to older Mainers unable to access telehealth to the thousands of workers and businesses who struggled with remote work, inadequate connectivity impedes the daily lives of our people and our state’s economic future.
Urgent long-term investments are needed to connect every community to quality, affordable high-speed access. The new Maine Connectivity Authority will leverage $129M in dedicated Federal dollars from the ARP “Critical Infrastructure Fund” and $21M from unallocated federal ARP funds to make smart, urgent investments in access across the state. The Authority’s investments will be used to ensure affordable access for all communities and citizens and will maximize the use of public dollars for long-term benefit.
- Save Money Through Energy Efficiency: $50M
Home energy efficiency and heating and ventilation upgrades for both renters and low-income, older Mainers are needed to reduce energy costs, improve public health, and cut carbon emissions.
This initiative, via the Efficiency Maine Trust, will accelerate weatherization and efficiency upgrades for Maine homes, especially for low-income, older Mainers and renters ($25M). These funds will also help municipal, county, school, and community organizations to secure efficiency grants by providing matching funds ($15M), and support incentives for industries and businesses to invest in energy cost savings and efficiency measures ($10M).
- Expand Child Care & Early Childhood Infrastructure: $20M
COVID-19 has exposed the need to strengthen the child care system for young children in Maine, especially in rural areas where gaps in child care is the greatest. Significant Federal funding is provided through ARP directly for childcare program support, affordability, and provider recovery programs.
This funding would complement those funds by helping schools expand public Pre-K programs and renovate, expand, or construct child care facilities to increase availability of early care and education. These funds would support child care infrastructure grants through the Department of Health and Human Services with a focus on care for infants/ toddlers and in rural areas ($10M), and grants for expanding public Pre-K programs through the Department of Education with a focus on partnerships between schools and community providers ($10M)
- Protect Infrastructure from Climate Change: $20M
Climate change poses a serious risk to Maine infrastructure, with damage estimates in the billions of dollars unless action is taken. These funds will create a pilot “Infrastructure Adaptation Fund” to support local, regional, and state infrastructure projects that addresses these vulnerabilities. These funds will help protect vital infrastructure most at risk, help unlock Federal and other funding options, and benefit public safety and emergency management efforts.
- Expand Municipal and Public EV Charging: $8M
These funds, through the Department of Transportation and Efficiency Maine Trust, will support the continued expansion of electric vehicle charging stations at town buildings, school buildings, State facilities, and public locations.
- Upgrade Maine State Parks: $50M
Maine’s State Parks had more than three million visits for the first time in 2020, and has remained on that pace through 2021. While this increase shows the recreational and economic importance of State Parks for Maine, it is also straining park staff and infrastructure.
Despite the appeal of State Parks, park infrastructure is outdated, lacking funding to be properly maintained, and in some cases, unsafe. In addition to structural repairs to park roads, bridges, shelters, and staff housing, the pandemic highlighted the inadequacy of plumbing and sanitation facilities.
These funds will address $50M in capital maintenance and improvement needs and represent the first meaningful investment in State Parks in more than a decade.
- Bolster Fisheries and Wildlife Infrastructure: $36M
Fish Hatchery Investments: $20M
During the pandemic, hunting and fishing spiked as people flocked to the outdoors. Already in 2021, fishing license sales are up nearly 20 percent over last year. At the core of Maine’s fisheries is Maine’s State hatchery system, which stocks over one million fish annually in Maine’s waters. Fishing in Maine has an annual economic impact of over $320 million, supports over 3,300 jobs, and there are over 350,000 licensed anglers.
Despite the importance of Maine’s hatcheries to the state’s outdoor recreation economy, some hatcheries are woefully outdated. These funds would improve infrastructure at all hatcheries, particularly at New Gloucester and Grand Lake Stream. The funds would allow the hatcheries to increase fish production by converting earthen raceways to modern circular tanks, dredging the water source, increasing oxygen supplies, improving treatment of hatchery waters, and enhancing pathogen and disease prevention.
Improve Fishing Industry Infrastructure & Monitoring: $16M
As the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries recover from the market disruptions and economic challenges of the pandemic, the Department of Marine Resources requires urgent investments to fulfill their industry and management mandates.
These funds will support public health monitoring as it pertains to shellfish and water quality by upgrading equipment to support maximizing harvest opportunities in both the aquaculture and wild shellfish sectors. Investment in climate-resilient infrastructure on the coast are needed, including building investments to promote public health and efficiency and a marine patrol vessel upgrade for cost savings and safety.
Additionally, needed improvements to boat ramps, docks and parking areas will improve coastal public access to state-owned facilities at a time their use has greatly increased. These investments will allow the limited agency funds available for capital expenditures to be put to better use as match to leverage additional federal funds for monitoring and research related to climate change and its emerging impacts in marine species.
- Support Essential Drinking and Wastewater Projects: $50M
Ensure the Safety of Drinking Water: $25M
The need for critical infrastructure improvements, such as upgrades to water treatment plants, storage reservoirs, pipe distribution systems exceeds the State’s current funding capacity. Through the State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the CDC drinking water program, these funds will address significant backlog of drinking water projects and help municipalities leverage further ARP funds. These investments improve public health, provide community benefits, reduce the burden for local rate payers, and support construction jobs.
Repair Wastewater Infrastructure: $25M
This investment will provide $22M for municipal wastewater and infrastructure projects, help leverage local ARP funds and accelerate the timeline of these essential local projects that protect public health, provide community benefits, reduce the burden for local ratepayers, and support construction jobs. Additionally, this provides $3M for the Small Community Grant Program, which supports septic repair and replacement projects, supporting water quality and public health for communities, water bodies, and fisheries.
- Facilitate Energy Needs: $8M
These funds will establish a matching grant program to support electricity grid upgrades that will reduce barriers for economic development by new or struggling businesses, especially in rural areas of the state.
- Modernize State Technology: $48M
The pandemic has illustrated the need for accessible, safe, and efficient State government services and programs – especially those that can managed online or through remote programs. These funds will invest in targeted upgrades to make State systems more user friendly, as well as cybersecurity needed to ensure safe State operations ($40M). These funds will also invest in required heating, ventilation, and efficiency upgrades to promote healthy working environments and long-term operational savings ($10M).
- Increase Licensing Efficiency: $5M
These funds would support making licensing easier and faster for businesses and more transparent and accessible to the public, through launching an online licensing system for environmental and other state licenses. A timely and fair permitting system is crucial to business investments, which was felt especially during the pandemic. This proposal envisions contracting with a software company for this licensing system, to put funds into the economy quickly and multiply it through savings for businesses and the State.
Administering the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan
Coordination of the Jobs Plan is led by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, through a new Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Office. This office will oversee the transparent and accountable implementation of the Jobs Plan, including ensuring proposed expenditures are eligible under U.S. Treasury guidance.
- State ARP Audit, Controller & Program Management: $22M
These funds will be used for financial oversight of American Rescue Plan Act funds, including State discretionary and direct funds, as well local passthrough funds. This will include coordination, processing, tracking, reporting, reconciling, compliance, auditing, and program guidance monitoring and summarizing. Significant reporting will be needed to meet federal requirements, as well as consistent, transparent updates for the Maine Legislature and citizens. These funds may be used for limited period positions, project management, contractors, and consultant support.
Reports and Recommendations
Introduced by Governor Mills on May 4, 2021, the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan draws upon the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the bold vision for Maine in the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy.
Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan
The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan incorporates the insight of economic, business and community leaders in Maine, a data-driven understanding of Maine’s economy before and during the pandemic, and the experiences of Maine people whose lives were disrupted by COVID-19.
Maine's 10-Year Economic Strategy
The Strategic Plan is a 10-year economic development strategy released in 2019 to harness Maine’s natural strengths and address its future challenges. To implement the plan, everyday individuals and organizations across the state are now working towards its vision of growing talent and innovation in Maine.
Governor's Economic Recovery Committee
The Governor's Economic Recovery Committee engaged economic experts and industry representatives from across Maine to develop specific policy recommendations to stabilize the state’s economy and build a bridge to future prosperity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.