Maine’s delegation on Capitol Hill is pressing for a new round of relief to help everything from newspapers to rural hospitals.

Clockwise from top left: Sen. Angus King, Sen. Susan Collins, Rep. Jared Golden and Rep. Chellie Pingree File photos

Most of their focus for a possible additional package of relief measures is on helping small businesses stay afloat and to put money in workers’ pockets.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said this week that President Donald Trump’s administration has agreed to pump another $250 billion into a program she co-authored to provide paycheck protection for small businesses.

More than 1,800 Maine businesses have already been approved to get more than $510 million in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program that Collins helped insert in an earlier relief measure. The program provides small companies with money to pay workers with cash they don’t need to pay back, as long as they keep their payroll numbers intact.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a first-term Democrat from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, said the additional $250 billion isn’t enough. He urged leaders to put $349 billion more into the program, with some set aside for rural businesses.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, is among the backers of a plan to provide $250 billion to help smaller local governments that were left out of the initial relief packages that only helped places with more than 500,000 people.

“No matter the size of their population, Maine counties, cities, and towns have stepped up to the plate to combat the spread of coronavirus and take action to protect their residents,” Pingree said in a prepared statement. “They deserve the same direct stabilization funding that larger cities and counties are receiving under the CARES Act” that passed last month.

Pingree said the new proposal is crucial for Maine because it doesn’t have any counties or municipalities that have 500,000 or more people.

Pingree is also pressing to make college students and young adults, who are dependents on their parents’ income tax, eligible for one-time COVID-19 payments that are currently set at $1,200 for adults and $500 for children 17 and under.

King is championing a push to include funding “to support local journalism and media” in any future relief packages.

In a joint letter to Senate leaders that he signed with 18 others, King said that without help, “communities across the country risk losing one of their key sources of accurate information about what citizens need to know and do in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The second-term independent senator said that with many restaurants, entertainment venues and retailers closed to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, advertising has taken a hit, causing some local publications to cease printing or lay off their staff.

“Reliable local news and information has been critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it has become more scarce,” King said.

“Any future stimulus package must contain funding to support this important industry at such a critical time,” he said. “Such a provision should be tailored to benefit aid recipients who make a long-term commitment to high quality local news.”

Golden is angling to get more money for rural hospitals and health care facilities that face “severe financial challenges” because of the pandemic. Many are struggling to deal with new costs while simultaneously losing their normal income from elective and preventive procedures, he said.

The Lewiston Democrat said he would also like to see a second round of direct relief payments to low-income and working-class Americans at least as large as the $1,200 checks included in the last bill.

Golden said, too, that he wants an extension of the pandemic unemployment compensation that would remain in effect until the job market recovers. It is set to expire July 31.

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