The following is a transcript of a radio address given Friday, April 17 by Governor Janet Mills:
This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.
Like you, I certainly want life to return to normal as soon as it is safe to do so. My heart breaks to see the closed storefronts and to see so many people struggling to make ends meet because of this crisis.
At the same time, we all know that reopening too soon and too aggressively could very well cause a surge in COVID-19 cases, causing people to die and further rocking our economy.
None of us wants that.
As the President acknowledged this week, Governors are in charge of reopening our states’ economies, gradually lifting public health restrictions.
Here in Maine, we are planning a phased-in reopening, tailored to the demographics and the economic sectors of our state.
Ultimately, the protocols we adopt, after consulting with people from all parts of the state, will be guided by fact, science and public health guidance.
As the President’s guidelines note, widespread testing, personal protective equipment, and contact tracing are all critical to lifting the restrictions and reviving our economy; for that reason, the nation’s governors this week again urged the Federal government to make sure that all our states have these vital resources.
I also remain in touch with Governor Sununu of New Hampshire and Governor Scott of Vermont and we talk about things that we can do together appropriate for our northern New England region.
My Administration, through the Department of Economic and Community Development, has been talking with people from various economic sectors across the state to evaluate how and when each of these sectors may reopen. Those decisions, of course, will be driven first and foremost by public health.
In the meantime, I ask you again to continue to stay the course. Stay home to save lives.
Of course, to stay home, you need to have a home.
That’s why this week I issued an Executive Order that limits evictions during this state of emergency. This Order applies to commercial tenants, small businesses, as well as residences.
And, with respect to rent, MaineHousing and I created a temporary rental assistance program for Maine people who can’t pay their rent due to COVID-19.
The program is up and running now and you can find more information about that at www.mainehousing.org/covidrent
I also wrote to all the financial institutions this week urging them to negotiate with homeowners who are struggling to pay the mortgage because of COVID-19.
Homes are more than brick and beams and mortar. Home is where my husband and I raised five girls. It’s where we sat at the kitchen table, helping with homework, paying bills. Where we slept safely each night.
For some Maine people though, homes are not sanctuaries. In one recent survey of people who called the domestic violence hotline, 70 percent said that the pandemic had impacted their safety.
So, stay at home orders, while they are necessary to stop the spread of the virus, they can leave victims and survivors of abuse cut off from friends, family and others whom they rely on for help, further empowering their abusers.
I want to be clear – while the courts are closed for many proceedings, you can still get a protection from abuse order; and clerks, attorneys, police officers and others are standing by to connect you with support and services you need to stay safe. Even hotels that are closed to most people remain open for people escaping abuse.
I ask all employers to check in on your employees who are now working from home, and I ask all friends and family members to connect with loved ones to ensure that they are safe.
If you need help, please call 1-866-834-4357, any time, 24 hours a day. 1-866-834-4357. Domestic violence shelters are also there for you if you need to find safety.
We all have a responsibility to support one another even as we stay apart.
God bless you and keep you safe. God bless the State of Maine during this difficult time.
I am Governor Mills. Thank you for listening.