On Monday, July 19, the Legislative Assembly adjourned sine die, or “without a day,” finally closing a long, complicated but ultimately rewarding session. One of the last bills we voted on for the year was also one of the most important: LD 1733 shows how nearly $ 1 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act ( ARPA) will be spent to help the people and economy of Maine rebuild better. . There are a variety of important programs that this money will fund, and I wanted to share some of them with you.
For starters, we used this one-time influx of federal funds to invest in our heritage industries, including agriculture, fishing and forestry. These are industries that have been the backbone of Maine’s economy for generations and have helped shape the character of our state. LD 1733 provides $ 20 million in investments in Maine farms and food processors, spurring growth and supporting the sustainability of agricultural businesses. This will help strengthen our state’s food system, allowing more of the produce grown and harvested in Maine to be processed and sold locally, which in turn will reduce our dependence on imported food while growing our economy. export. This bill also allocates $ 10 million to the Department of Marine Resources for grants to help processors and seafood traders modernize or replace infrastructure and improve their facilities, and $ 20 million to support well-paying jobs in the forest products industry, reducing energy costs and helping meet Maine’s ambitious climate goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how important access to affordable, quality health care is. A key part of this is addressing the shortage of health care providers in our state, from doctors and nurses to direct care workers. LD 1733 funds the Doctors for Maine’s Future scholarship program for the next five years, providing scholarships to medical students right here in Maine. It is also creating a stackable accreditation program for direct care workers, which will support Extraordinary Mainers who are already doing this important work and reduce staff shortages among long-term and direct care providers. This new program will allow direct care workers themselves to access additional training and advance their careers.
I know that while this will help families in the long run, it is not an immediate solution. Right now, countless Mainers are doing an incredible job caring for their aging or disabled loved ones because they simply cannot access a home care provider even though they are entitled to it. To help these families, we are using ARPA funds to create a pilot program that will provide financial assistance to these families, while they provide life-saving care to their loved ones. And to help the elderly and people with disabilities stay in their homes, we’ve also allocated funds for a new property tax relief program. For so many fixed income mainers, raising property taxes is an incredible burden. By giving this tax break to low income Mainers, we are helping people stay in the homes they have always known, and close to the community members and families who care for them.
These are just a few of the measures funded in LD 1733. There have also been major investments in workforce development, economic stimulus grants for businesses and improvements in access. Reliable high speed internet. Moreover, the vast majority of these measures have received strong bipartisan support. These are investments that make sense for Maine as we emerge from this economic crisis and seek to put our state back on the path to prosperity.
As always, if you have any questions about this bill or another measure that the Legislative Assembly has considered this session, you can contact my office by calling 287-1515 or emailing me. To [email protected]
Eloise Vitelli is a state senator representing District 23, covering Sagadahoc County and Dresden.
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