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May 5, 2021

Mills' $1.13B plan aims for recovery as well as long-term economic growth

six photos showing people working in manufacturing, construction, someone singing, a lobster, two guys, one white, one black, working on a computer and a tractor going through a field Image / Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday unveiled her $1.13 billion Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, which is aimed at both short- and long-term economic recovery from the pandemic.
Why was the Maine Jobs & Recovery Act launched at GO Labs' Timber HP plant in Madison?
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Gov. Janet Mills' Tuesday announced a $1.13 billion plan aimed at immediate economic recovery from the pandemic as well as long-term business sustainability and job creation.

The money for the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the discretionary portion of the $4.5 billion Maine is getting from the American Recovery Plan. The balance is earmarked by Congress for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and other pandemic recovery programs.

The wide-ranging plan announced Tuesday is aimed at addressing three goals — immediate economic recovery from the pandemic, long-term economic growth and infrastructure revitalization. More specifically, the plan invests heavily in innovation for heritage industries, job creation and training and support for small business and startups.

Mills' proposal is based on the 10-year economic plan she announced in December 2019, as well as the Governor's Economic Recovery Plan that was drawn up by a 48-member committee last year. A major conclusion of that committee was that the state needed more money from the federal government to achieve long-term recovery.

About $105 million is designated for workforce training on the high school and post-secondary levels and $50 million to build workforce housing. The biggest allocation is $150 million to establish the Maine Connectivity Authority, which will work to bring high-speed broadband access to the state.

Mills announced the plan at GO Labs' Timber HP factory in Madison, a symbolic nod to the bridge between Maine's heritage industries and the innovation she said will lead the state's economy.

"Our heritage industries are not just of the past, they are economic engines of the future," Mills said as she kicked off her remarks.

The plan must be approved by the Legislature. Mills said she "hopes to hopes to engage in a robust, bipartisan discussion" with lawmakers about "the transformational opportunity presented by the funds, take into consideration the forthcoming guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury and prepare for swift and decisive action to continue Maine’s economic recovery and achieve long-term growth for Maine people, businesses and communities."

She said the federal money is "an unprecedented opportunity to address the longstanding challenges that have constrained our state’s ability to thrive over the years."

The plan aims to complement, not duplicate, what Congress has specified for the other $3.27 billion in federal money coming into the state, she said. The $1.13 billion in discretionary funds can be deployed through 2024.

Where the money is going

In general, the plan make the following allocations.

$260 million for immediate economic recovery, including:

  • $80 million for recovery grants and loan guarantees;
  • $50 million investment in heritage industries;
  • $39 million to lower health care costs for small businesses;
  • $80 million to replenish the unemployment trust fund;
  • $8 million to sustain new businesses and entrepreneurs;
  • $3 million to encourage business diversity.

$350 million for long-term economic growth, including:

  • $80 million to jumpstart innovation;
  • $15 million to launch a health workforce initiative;
  • $8 million to create clean energy partnerships;
  • $15 million to establish a domestic trade program;
  • $18 million to attract and retain workers;
  • $28 million to expand the Maine Career Exploration Program;
  • $5 million to create a remote workers welcome program;
  • $105 million for worker training through Maine's Career and Technical Education Centers and higher education systems;
  • $8 million to advance equity;
  • $15 million to connect workers to job opportunities.
  • $8 million to increase licensing efficiency.

$547 million for infrastructure revitalization, including:

  • $150 million to establish the Maine Connectivity Authority;
  • $50 million to build workforce housing;
  • $50 million to find savings through energy efficiency;
  • $20 million to expand child care and early childhood infrastructure;
  • $50 million to fix Maine roads and bridges through the 2021 Capital Work Plan;
  • $20 million to protect infrastructure from climate change;
  • $5 million to launch a workforce transportation pilot;
  • $8 million to expand municipal and public electric vehicle charging;
  • $50 million to upgrade Maine state parks;
  • $20 million to bolster fisheries and wildlife infrastructure;
  • $16 million to improve fishing industry infrastructure and monitoring;
  • $25 million to ensure the safety of drinking water;
  • $25 million to repair wastewater infrastructure;
  • $8 million to create energy interconnection grants;
  • $50 million to upgrade government systems, accessibility and cybersecurity protection.

The plan also allocates $20 million for administration and successful deployment of funds. 

Support from business community

The plan got widespread support across sectors from the state's business community.

Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, cited Mills' 10-year economic plan as well as last year's recovery plan as steps forward. "Using these documents as our road map, the Maine State Chamber supports the governor’s proposal for use of the American Recovery Act funds, because they represent short-term investments that will result in long-term gains to Maine employers and their employees.” 

The plan will "grow the economy from the bottom up, from the middle out," said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO. “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep inequalities of income, wealth and power that cut along lines of race, class, gender and geography."  He said the plan will address those inequities, as well as create union jobs and invest in apprenticeship and worker training.

Marty Grohman, executive director of  E2Tech, said, “Maine is one of the best places in the world to start a company and the clean tech sector is growing fast with intense investor demand. Maine can only gain by increasing partnerships and state support that foster innovative startups and create clean energy jobs.”

Maine Forest Products Council Executive Director Patrick Strauch said the plan supports the council's mission to increase investment opportunities and workforce in the industry. "The opportunities for encouraging investment in emerging wood technologies and in training the workforce of today and tomorrow are imperative for a growing forest economy," he said.

The physical infrastructure funding will also help Maine's skilled workers and their companies, said Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine. “Now that we are turning a corner on COVID-19, it’s imperative that Maine continue to invest in our infrastructure backlog and keep Mainers working. The physical infrastructure funding designated in the governor’s package using American Rescue Plan funding helps accomplish that.”

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