(The Center Square) – Maine is sending out relief checks to hundreds of thousands of residents who worked in retail and other essential industries during the pandemic.
Beginning this week, the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services will begin sending out one-time payments of $285 to at least 524,754 workers who remained on the job during the COVID-19 state of emergency last year.
"The hardworking men and women who kept our state running through the pandemic deserve our appreciation," Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. "I hope this will help Maine families to some small degree during the holiday season as we work to fully recover our economy."
The relief payments were approved as part of the state's two-year, $8.5 billion budget approved by the Maine Legislature earlier this year. The nearly $150 million in relief checks are funded by federal CARES Act money.
Individuals with an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 in 2020, or $150,000 for joint filers, were eligible for the relief payments.
The checks will be mailed over the next several weeks to eligible recipients, who don't need to fill out an application to receive the payments, Mills administration officials said.
Finance Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa said the relief payments will provide much-needed financial relief "to Mainers who worked during the pandemic, and we aim to get these checks into these Mainers’ hands as quickly as possible."
Maine is among dozens of states that have tapped into a windfall of federal pandemic relief funds to provide bonus or "hazard pay" for frontline workers who remained on the job.
In Louisiana, child care workers, grocery clerks and other workers each received $250 checks last year. Eligible workers had to earn less than $50,000 per year.
Georgia is using about $230 million in federal pandemic relief funds to provide one-time $1,000 bonus payments to teachers, bus drivers, and other staff working in K-12 education.
In Oregon, about 70,000 workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic received $500 checks last year, funded with relief money.
Maine officials point out that a state law prevents them from sending out payments of more than $300. The state tax assessor rounded the payments to $285 to ensure that another 860 eligible workers would get bonus checks.