My top priority is to keep Mainers as safe and as healthy as possible during the COVID-19 crisis, and I remain committed to providing Maine the resources it needs to keep up the fight. Please visit this website often for additional and updated information. If you need assistance, please contact any of my six constituent service centers.
Help is on the horizon for small businesses and their employees, who are facing economic devastation through no fault of their own. The CARES Act includes a $377 billion small business economic relief plan co-authored by Senator Collins, a member of the Small Business Task Force.
The law allocates $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small employers harmed by the COVID-19 crisis to help keep their employees paid and employed. The loans are available to all businesses - including 501(c)(3) nonprofits, veterans organizations, Tribal business concerns, sole proprietors, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors - who have no more than 500 employees (or the SBA size standard, if applicable). There are certain exceptions – click here for more information.
These loans can be used to pay for certain payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, and interest on any other debt obligation entered into before February 15, 2020. If an employer maintains its payroll, the portion of the loans used for these payroll costs and certain overhead expenses (mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments) will be forgiven.
The new loan program runs through June 30, 2020, and will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees. Loan payments will be deferred for 6 months and all loans will have the same terms regardless of lender or borrower.
Small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply starting April 3, 2020, and independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply starting April 10, 2020. Small businesses and nonprofits can apply through an existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. Small business owners should consult with their local lender about their participation. A list of participating lenders as well as additional information can be found at www.sba.gov.
SBA encourages small businesses to apply as quickly as they can because there is a funding cap. Additional information is available from the U.S. Treasury HERE.
For a full list of resources available from the SBA, please visit their coronavirus website.
Self-Employed, Freelancers, and Contract Workers can qualify for several different areas of economic relief including:
Senator Collins worked with bipartisan colleagues to secure $300 million to assist workers and businesses in our nation’s fisheries and related businesses. Fishermen, fishing communities, aquaculture businesses, and other fishery-related businesses are eligible for assistance if they have incurred economic revenue loss greater than 35 percent as compared to the 5-year average as a direct or indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretary of Commerce recently announced that Maine will receive more than $20 million in assistance, the fifth-largest amount among 31 recipients nationwide. This targeted relief will help protect our seafood supply chains, and help to ensure that the families and communities that depend on its success can emerge from this crisis.
Fishery participants eligible for funding—including commercial fishing businesses, charter/for-hire fishing businesses, qualified aquaculture operations, processors, and other fishery-related businesses—should work with the Maine Department of Marine Resources to understand the process for applying for these funds. For additional information and FAQs, visit the NOAA Fisheries COVID-19 Updates website.
The CARES Act provides millions of Americans with direct relief. Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive a rebate check payment of up to a maximum of $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child. The rebate check payment phases out starting at $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for joint filers.
The vast majority of people do not need to take any action in order to receive a rebate check. The IRS has begun to send out payments automatically through direct deposit or to the address provided on the last tax return submitted. Non-filers can enter their payment information HERE. You can provide your direct deposit information and check the status of your relief payment HERE.
Special Information for Seniors, Social Security Beneficiaries, Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities
On April 1, Treasury announced that Social Security beneficiaries will not be required to file a tax return in order to receive a $1,200 stimulus payment under the CARES Act and will instead receive their payments automatically. Senator Collins strongly supported this policy, which will make it easier for many seniors and individuals with disabilities to obtain these targeted relief funds. According to the IRS, Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will begin receiving their automatic $1,200 payments the week of April 27.
Any non-filing Social Security beneficiaries, including individuals receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, Railroad Retirement beneficiaries, SSI recipients, or VA recipients with qualifying children under age 17 need to provide further information to claim the additional $500 per child payment mentioned above. Under current guidance, these individuals had until a certain date – April 22 for Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries and May 5 for SSI and VA recipients – to use the IRS online tool for non-filers to provide the needed information and receive the additional payment for child dependents this year. Those who missed the deadline will receive the additional $500 per qualifying child with a return filing for tax year 2020. These individuals will still receive their $1,200 automatically this year.
On April 24, Senator Collins led a bipartisan letter with five other Senators asking Treasury and the IRS to explore options for allowing non-filing Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries with dependents who missed the April 22nd deadline to still receive the additional $500 per qualified dependent this year. The letter also asks that consideration be given to SSI and VA recipients who may be affected by a future deadline.
Other individuals who typically do not file a tax return, such as lower-income workers, can also receive a rebate payment and may use the new IRS online tool for non-filers. Doing so provides the IRS with the information needed to track rebate eligibility and deliver the economic impact payments. Individuals who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.
The CARES Act provides additional Unemployment Insurance benefits for Mainers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis. Mainers can apply for unemployment benefits through the Maine Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.
Visit the Maine Bureau of Unemployment Compensation website for more information about how to apply for unemployment benefits in Maine. Claims can be filed online or by calling 1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., Monday-Friday.
The Families First Coronavirus Act and the CARES Act provided important leave provisions for Americans and their families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees can now receive sick leave and limited family leave in direct response to this crisis. Employers will receive refundable tax credits to pay for the leave.
The IRS has announced that the federal income tax filing due date has been automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. For more information, visit the IRS website.
Rebate Checks: On April 1, Treasury announced that Social Security beneficiaries will not be required to file a tax return in order to receive a $1,200 stimulus payment under the CARES Act and will instead receive their payments automatically. Senator Collins strongly supported this policy, which will make it easier for many seniors and individuals with disabilities to obtain these targeted relief funds. According to the IRS, Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will begin receiving their automatic $1,200 payments the week of April 27.
Any other seniors who typically do not file a tax return and do not receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement, VA benefits, or SSI can also receive a stimulus payment. They may use the new IRS online tool for non-filers to provide the IRS with the information needed to track rebate eligibility and deliver the economic impact payments. Individuals who are otherwise not required to file a tax return will not owe tax.
Coronavirus Scams: The Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General are warning seniors to beware of coronavirus-related scams that seek to steal their hard-earned savings and personal information. These scammers try to convince you to purchase, or provide personal information in exchange for, a fake coronavirus test kit, vaccine, or cure; threaten suspension of your Social Security benefits; and try to convince you to respond to a fundraising email from entities posing as the CDC or World Health Organization. The IRS is also warning seniors to be on alert for criminals telling them that they need to provide or confirm their bank account information before they can receive their coronavirus rebate checks. Many seniors will receive their rebate checks automatically and the IRS will not call or email you asking for your bank account information. The FTC provides the following tips for avoiding these scams:
If you think you have been contacted by a scammer, please report it to the Senate Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
Social Security Services: Effective March 17, 2020, Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices are closed for in-person appointments due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the SSA continues to address certain issues by telephone and provides a number of services online. The SSA provides regular updates about agency services and operations on its coronavirus website.
The VA Maine Health Care System has instituted several emergency measures to adapt to the spread of COVID-19. For up-to-date information on the current operating status of the VA Maine Healthcare System, including information for veteran patients and visitors, visit their website or call the Maine VA Medical Center at 877-421-8263 or 207-623-8411.
Any non-filing VA recipients with qualifying children under age 17 will need to provide further information to the IRS to claim the additional $500 per child payment. Under current guidance, these individuals had until May 5 to use the IRS online tool for non-filers to provide the needed information and receive the additional payment this year. Those who missed the deadline will receive the additional $500 per qualifying child with a return filing for tax year 2020. These individuals will still receive their $1,200 automatically this year.
On April 24, Senator Collins led a bipartisan letter with five other Senators asking Treasury and the IRS to explore options for allowing non-filing Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries with dependents who missed the April 22nd deadline to still receive the additional $500 per qualified dependent this year. The letter also asks that consideration be given to VA and SSI recipients who may be affected by a future deadline.
At the recommendation of the Governor, schools in the State of Maine have temporarily suspended classroom-based instruction. Additional information about Maine school operations and educational resources may be found at the Maine Department of Education website and by contacting your local school directly.
The CARES Act relieves student loan borrowers from making monthly payments for six months.Borrowers do not need to make payments on their federal student loans (Direct Loans and FFEL Loans held by the U.S. Department of Education) through September 30, 2020. No interest will accrue on such loans during that time. This relief does not apply to private and commercially-held FFEL loans.
During this time, borrowers will not be subject to involuntary collections (garnishment of wages, tax refunds, and Social Security benefits) and will not have any negative credit reporting for late payments.
Borrowers will continue to receive credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Income-Driven Repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation even though they will not be making payments. If borrowers want to continue making payments during this time, they are free to do so.
In August, student loan borrowers will be notified about resuming their regular payments on September 30, 2020.
Visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website for additional information about student loan relief, or contact your student loan servicer directly.
If you are currently enrolled in higher education and experiencing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for additional aid from your college or university. Contact your college or university directly for assistance and for information about specific campus closures.
Congress has provided approximately $26 billion in emergency funding for USDA nutrition programs to ensure no child or family faces increased food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing additional appropriations, Congress has granted the Administration extensive waiver authority to ensure states have all the tools necessary to serve our most vulnerable populations during this challenging time.
Accessing School Meals: In particular, Senator Collins has led efforts to ensure access to school meals while schools are out of session. More information on national efforts to provide access to nutritious meals can be found on the Food and Nutrition Services’ COVID-19 website, which is being updated regularly as new authorities continue to be implemented. For information on schools in Maine that are providing meals to students during closures, please visit the Maine Department of Education’s COVID-19 meals page.
Resources for Seniors: As Chairman of the Aging Committee and the Senator representing the oldest state by median age, Senator Collins has made it a priority to ensure seniors continue to have access to Meals on Wheels and other federal nutrition programs during this crisis. In addition to supporting an additional $750 million for these critical programs, she secured policy changes to allow flexibility to transfer funding between congregate meals and home-delivered meals without prior approval; expand the definition of “homebound” so that older adults who are social distancing can receive home-delivered meals, too; and make sure seniors can get meals when certain food options are not available. For more information on senior nutrition programs, or to sign up for Meals on Wheels, please call your local Area Agencies on Aging, which can be found here.
The State Department has issued several important advisories related to Americans traveling outside of the United States at this time and is advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. If you or a loved one needs assistance returning to the United States from abroad, the State Department recommends taking the following actions:
Senator Collins and Congress have worked to make sure cost is not a barrier to being tested or treated for COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires testing across insurers to be covered without cost sharing and ensures that uninsured individuals can be tested cost-free. This legislation and the CARES Act increased the federal government’s support for the Medicaid program and provides more than $130 billion in direct relief for hospitals and other health care providers who are on the frontlines of responding to this crisis.
Under the Families First Coronavirus Act, all private insurance plans must cover coronavirus testing without deductibles, coinsurance, or co-pays.
Visit the CDC website for information about steps you can take if you are sick or think you may be sick with COVID-19. The process and locations for COVID-19 testing vary from place to place.If you are experiencing an emergency, seek medical attention right away.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
Maine Domestic Abuse Helpline: 1-866-834-HELP