Governor’s economic committee urges action on bold strategies for recovery from COVID-19

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 1:00pm

    AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills welcomed Tuesday the release of the final report of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee, which outlines eight strategies to sustain Maine people and grow the Maine economy in response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With the virus’ resurgence in recent weeks, the Committee also issued a clarion call for more federal stimulus in order to sustain the economy in the near-term, particularly within hard-hit sectors like retail, tourism and hospitality.

    Without new stimulus to protect Maine families and businesses, the Committee warned, many businesses and individuals will suffer irreparable damage from the pandemic, according to a news release. 

    Over the long-term, the Committee recommends action in eight targeted areas to chart Maine’s pathway to future prosperity, based on Maine’s 10-year Economic Development Plan released just months before the pandemic struck.

    “I am grateful for the energy and diligence with which the entire committee approached this important work, particularly given the difficulties presented by the pandemic,” said Governor Mills. “These recommendations give us a strong roadmap to move our economy forward, and I strongly echo the committee’s call for added federal stimulus now, which will help sustain Maine people through these challenging times, allow us to continue fighting the pandemic head-on, and achieve our economic recovery.”

    “These eight clear, transformational strategies represent our committee’s dedication to delivering bold and achievable steps for Maine’s economy to recover from the disruption caused by COVID-19,” said Laurie Lachance, President of Thomas College and committee co-chair. “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead this remarkable committee in this important and challenging work.”

    “I’m so thankful for the committee members’ willingness to build consensus around big ideas, and focus their attention amongst so many urgent needs,” said Josh Broder, CEO of Tilson and committee co-chair. “Our core recommendations are long-term in nature and should be built on the foundation of controlling the pandemic first, as Maine’s economic recovery depends on strong public health.”

    The ERC recommendations for growth include bolstering innovation and entrepreneurship to grow new industries and accelerate transformation in existing ones; enhancing workforce development to retain workers displaced by the pandemic; and leveraging Maine’s desirability as a safe place to re-locate amid COVID-19 into a consistent program to attract diverse new people to the state.

    To do this, the Committee said, requires significant, sustaining investments and innovation in early childhood care and education, the availability of broadband Internet access and digital devices across the state, and policies that address unaffordable and inaccessible housing options, especially around high-demand employment markets.

    Above all, the Committee noted, the pandemic’s disproportionate impact across age, income geographic and racial lines in Maine demands a significant commitment to address long-standing structural inequity, which will in turn have a positive economic impact on the state.

    “Our recommendations value the potential and continuing economic contributions of people of color in Maine," said Tae Chong, Portland City Councilor, Social Enterprise & Workforce Development Manager at Catholic Charities Maine, and chair of the ERC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee. "We believe in the next ten years and beyond, they will contribute more to our economy, workforce and they will help to create new markets for Maine businesses both in and out of state. We need people of color in Maine to help grow our economy, so that all of Maine succeed and prosper."

    Established by Governor Mills in mid-May, amid the first surge of COVID-19, the Economic Recovery Committee was formed to offer insight and expertise to the Mills Administration about the economic impact of the pandemic and to develop strategies in response.

    The Committee’s first report in July informed Governor Mills’ allocations of Coronavirus Relief Funds for Maine schools, childcare providers, rental assistance, broadband Internet access to students, and the creation of the Maine Economic Recovery Grant program that has distributed $158.6 million to 3,551 Maine businesses and non-profits organizations.

    “I want to thank the ERC for its incredible work and recommendations, which will be invaluable going forward as we restore Maine’s pathway toward the 10-year Economic Development Strategy,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “There are challenges ahead, but the committee has provided us with detailed insight and direction that will help Maine people and grow our state’s economy.”

    Links to the Committee’s reports, recordings of each full Committee meeting and presentation materials are available on the ERC website.