Governor Janet Mills announced today an economic recovery grant program to support Maine charter transportation 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. Funded by $10 million in federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF), the Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program will support the economic recovery of businesses disrupted by the extended closure of the US-Canada border.
Governor Mills has criticized the extended closure and called on the Biden Administration to safely reopen the border.
“Maine’s border businesses rely on tourism from our northern neighbors to make ends meet, but with the federal government’s unfortunate decision to extend the border closure, traffic from Canada will continue to be limited,” said Governor Mills. “I hope this program will provide at least a small amount of financial relief to sustain these businesses through these difficult times, and I continue to urge the U.S. government to safely open the border.”
“The closure of the US-Canadian border has created unprecedented economic challenges in service-based communities across much of northern Maine. The Charter Transportation and Border Business Grant Program will provide targeted support to border businesses, as well as charter transportation businesses statewide, who are most in need,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “The Mills Administration is committed to supporting the sectors of our economy hit hardest by the pandemic. Along with this latest grant program, we look forward to distributing additional federal funds under the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan once it takes effect in October to support the economic recovery of small businesses statewide.”
Through economic and recovery grant programs, the State of Maine has distributed 5,293 grant awards totaling more than $227 million to 4,624 unique businesses and nonprofits across the state.
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 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 efforts by DECD to address these needs and put these businesses back on the road to recovery.”
Using $10 million in unspent CRF funds, the Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program will award 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 including, but not limited to Retail Trade & Food Services businesses, who demonstrate a need for financial relief up to $100,000. Priority will be given to businesses who have not received CRF funds to date.
“Aroostook County businesses have been uniquely impacted by the prolonged border closure because we are bordered on 3 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 to see the Mills Administration respond to this immediate need and create a program that will help alleviate some of the impacts of lost Canadian revenues along our expansive US-Canada border. The Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program is exactly what our heavily-impacted border businesses need to help sustain operations through these difficult pandemic-related challenges.”
Businesses may apply for the Charter Transportation and Border Business Assistance Grant Program starting August 12, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. on the DECD website. The application portal will remain open until 11:59PM ET September 13, 2021. Applications will be reviewed, and final determinations made after the portal closing date. If selected for a grant, notice of grant amount will be sent out via e-mail.
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.
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 Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program. In 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.
In July of 2021, Governor Mills signed legislation to implement the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan which includes an additional $66 million in business economic recovery grants, backed by federal funding allocated to Maine by the American Rescue Plan.