Governor approves COVID-19 Prevention and Protection Grant awards to municipalities

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 2:30pm

    AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Friday her Administration has approved almost $9 million in grant awards to nearly 100 municipalities across the state under the Keep Maine Healthy Plan to support local COVID-19 public health, education, and prevention efforts.

    Following the announcement of the Keep Maine Healthy Plan earlier this month, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services approved COVID-19 Prevention and Protection Plans submitted by 96 municipalities.

    Today, the Department began notifying municipalities of their awards. The federal funding is expected to be distributed on a reimbursement basis as communities implement these programs.

    “Towns and cities across Maine are on the frontlines of responding to COVID-19 and are well positioned to protect their residents and visitors alike,” said Governor Mills. “Maine continues to have relatively low case counts, which is a product of our collective efforts, but as we reopen the vast majority of our economy, as more people interact, and as more visitors arrive from out-of-state, the likelihood of the virus spreading also increases. These awards are a deliberate effort to help mitigate that danger by helping municipalities implement measures that will protect the health of both residents and visitors alike.”

    “We look forward to this partnership with cities and towns,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “Continued commitment to physical distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene will keep residents and visitors safe this summer and fall.”

    The Mills Administration worked closely with the Maine Municipal Association and the Mayor’s Coalition on the creation of the municipal grants program.

    “The Maine Municipal Association is pleased to know that over 90 cities and towns will receive nearly $9 million in grants for their COVID-19 related costs to protect their citizens’ and visitors’ health and safety,” said Stephen W. Gove, Executive Director of Maine Municipal Association. “Under Governor Mills’ Keep Maine Healthy program, funding to municipalities in all regions recognizes the vital front line role they play in partnering with the state on coronavirus public health support, protection and education.  This financial support is particularly important and welcomed during our summer tourist season.” 

    More specifically, the funding incentivizes municipalities and Tribal governments to develop and implement their own COVID-19 prevention, education and protection plans by reimbursing municipal costs associated with public health education and prevention activities.

    These plans, for which the state is supporting up to $13 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act, aim to help keep Maine people and visitors safe from COVID-19 by including one or more of the following:

    Public education activities: This could include printing and posting of existing State or national COVID-19 prevention information and developing local educational activities that are consistent with CDC guidelines. Costs eligible for reimbursement would include staff time for planning and education activities and costs for signage, materials, website development, brochures and mailing.

    Physical distancing and public health support: This could include fences, tape, and signage for physical distancing in public spaces and closed streets; providing staff to limit crowds in front of restaurants, bars, beaches and other sites; new traffic pattern signage and education; purchases of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to be made available for staff, visitors, and for use at public locations; and extra cleaning supplies and additional staff time required for enhanced cleaning and management of public spaces and restroom facilities.

    Local business assistance: This includes staff time for a Code Enforcement Officer, Local Health Officer, or other person designated by the municipality or Tribe to be the local contact for educating local businesses on best practices.  This may include following up on public complaints and, for certain cases, reporting to State officials when there is a potential public health violation that cannot be quickly resolved through educational means. 

    These local actions will be an extension of the Maine CDC’s work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    As part of Keep Maine Healthy, the Maine CDC is overseeing this initiative.

    Costs associated with approved public health education and prevention activities from June 8 through October 31 will be reimbursed.

    DHHS is considering a second round of grant funding for municipalities and expects to release further guidance soon.

    The awards come at a time when Maine, adjusted for population, ranks seventh lowest in the nation in terms of positive cases; ninth lowest in the nation in terms of deaths; sixth lowest in terms of patients ever-hospitalized out of the 36 states reporting; and fifth highest in the percentage of people who have recovered out of the 42 states reporting.