Governor Mills Announces More Than $5.6 Million in Economic Recovery Grants for Transportation and Border Businesses Impacted by Border Closure with Canada

Governor Janet Mills today announced that her Administration is awarding more than $5.6 million in economic recovery grants to 94 Maine charter transportation companies and businesses disrupted by the Federal government’s extended closure of the US-Canada border. The awards, which are funded by federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF), average $60,365 with 37 businesses receiving the maximum award of $100,000.

In total, the Mills Administration has awarded more than $273 million in economic and recovery grant programs to 5,224 businesses and non-profits during the pandemic. Moreover, Governor Mills announced yesterday $139 million in the first investments of her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, including $20 million for another grant program to support Maine small businesses.

“The extended closure of the US-Canadian border created unprecedented economic hardship in communities across much of northern and eastern Maine,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I hope these grants will provide some support to border businesses and charter transportation businesses across the state who are most in need as the border finally reopens next month.”

The Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program awarded economic recovery funding to charter transportation, land and sea excursion and sightseeing, and port harbor businesses statewide and customer-facing businesses and organizations that are open to the public and within 25 miles driving distance of a US-Canada border crossing who demonstrated a need for financial relief. Priority was given to businesses who did not receive CRF funds to date.

Governor Mills launched the grant program in August 2021. Governor Mills also applauded the Federal government’s recent decision to safely reopen the border, calling it “long overdue.”

In developing the Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program, the Department of Economic and Community Development drew on recommendations from the tourism, hospitality, and retail industries to meet the distinct needs of those sectors.

As with other economic development grants, funds may be used to cover expenses, including but not limited to: payroll costs and expenses; rent or mortgage payments for business facilities; utilities payments; necessary operating expenses; expenses incurred to replenish inventory or other necessary re-opening expenses; purchase of personal protective equipment required by the business or business related equipment. Funds must be spent on operations that are strictly within Maine. Recipients are liable for any misuse of funds, and the grants are subject to audit.

“As the only statewide organization representing all aspects of the tourism industry, the Maine Tourism Association is grateful to have had a voice in the development of this grant program since it addresses industry segments which have had unique challenges and may not have qualified for other assistance programs,” said Tony Cameron, CEO of Maine Tourism Association. “Maine's diverse tourism industry relies on the success of all regions and segments for a healthy economy; and helping the charter and motorcoach segments which suffered greatly last year and those that have been slower to recover because of their location to the border of Canada is tremendously beneficial. We appreciate the Mills Administration’s work to address these needs and put these businesses back on the road to recovery.”

“Aroostook County businesses have been uniquely impacted by the prolonged border closure because we are bordered on three sides by Canada and, for many, Canadian customers have traditionally provided a significant portion of their revenues,” said Paul Towle, President and CEO of Aroostook Partnership. “The Aroostook Partnership is pleased the Mills Administration responded to this immediate need and is distributing these awards that will help alleviate some of the impacts of lost Canadian revenues along our expansive US-Canada border. These grants are exactly what our heavily-impacted border businesses need to help sustain operations through these difficult pandemic-related challenges.”

The Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program continues the Mills Administration’s commitment to providing financial relief for small businesses that incur business disruptions and added expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August of 2020, the Mills Administration launched the Phase 1 of the program, the Administration awarded 2,407 businesses $120 million in awards. Awards averaged just over $49,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state. The hospitality sector, particularly lodging and accommodations, represented the largest percentage of recipients, drawing 35 percent of the awards.

In September of 2020, the Mills Administration launched Phase 2 of the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program. In Phase 2, the Administration awarded 1,244 businesses grants totaling $53.9 million. Awards averaged just over $43,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state.

In total, the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program provided $174. 1 million to 3,651 businesses and non-profits.

In December of 2020, the Mills Administration also launched the Tourism, Hospitality & Retail Recovery Grant Program. The Administration awarded 1,642 tourism, retail and hospitality businesses a total of $52.9 million in additional support. Awards averaged just over $32,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state.