Joe Biden’s election as president will result in a dramatic shift away from Trump administration policies that directly affect everything from Mainers’ options for health insurance to refugee resettlement.

While President Trump has yet to concede the election, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are already preparing to move forward with an ambitious policy agenda on the environment, health care, taxes, education and other issues.

The fate of many of those initiatives – such as creating a “public option” under Medicare and increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans – likely face difficult odds in a polarized and closely divided Congress. But Biden is also expected to broadly use his executive authority, whether by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement “on Day 1,” taking a more active federal role on COVID-19 or reversing Trump immigration policies.

Here’s how Biden’s platform might affect Maine:


During an election dominated by debate over health care and COVID-19, Biden campaigned on protecting and expanding the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law while he was vice president. Biden’s proposals included:


• Offering a public option so consumers could buy into a government-run insurance program similar to Medicare.

• Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60.

• Increasing health-related subsidies and tax credits for lower- and medium-income families

• Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

• Enabling consumers to purchase prescription drugs from other countries.

• Automatically covering additional lower-income individuals under Medicaid in states that declined to do so under the ACA.


Maine Gov. Janet Mills expanded Medicaid on her first day in office, opening up the program to an additional 70,000 lower-income residents after statewide voters approved expansion but former Gov. Paul LePage refused to implement it. But Biden’s other proposed changes to Medicare and the ACA could have dramatic effects on Maine’s older and lower-income populace.

Roughly 65,000 Maine residents obtained health coverage through the ACA’s individual marketplace as of spring 2020. An estimated 9 percent of Maine residents lacked health insurance in 2019 compared to 11 percent in 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In addition to increasing subsidies, Biden has proposed eliminating the 400 percent income cap on tax credits for coverage through the ACA marketplace, thereby making the program more available. Biden has also proposed “lowering the limit on cost of coverage” under the ACA from 9.86 percent of income to 8.5 percent, effectively meaning that households should not have to spend more than 8.5 percent on health coverage.

“These steps would make significant strides toward making quality health care more affordable for working Mainers, particularly for middle-income earners,” said Rebecca Boulos, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association, an organization of public health professionals active on policy issues.

Lowering the minimum age of Medicare, meanwhile, would make coverage available to nearly 110,000 Maine residents between age 60 and 65.

While Biden’s failure to embrace Medicare for all disappointed many progressives, his call for a public option could provide consumers with additional options in Maine, which has historically had a limited pool of providers. Any American could hypothetically choose to buy into a plan under the public option program similar to Medicare, even if they are currently insured through an employer.


Of course, creating a public option similar to Medicare would require congressional approval – a hurdle that currently appears difficult if not impossible to accomplish given Republican opposition to the idea.


Biden has also promised a more aggressive and science-based response than Trump’s to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected 13.1 million Americans and killed more than  265,000.

He has pledged to launch a national contact tracing system to supplement the systems in place in Maine and other states. He has also proposed free nationwide COVID-19 testing as well as federal support to create at least 10 drive-thru testing locations in each state, although Maine already offers free testing at several dozen drive-thru or “swab-and-send” facilities statewide.

But Biden has also said that no American should have to pay for COVID-19 testing, treatment or vaccination regardless of whether they have health insurance. Additionally, he has proposed an “emergency paid leave program” – fully funded by the federal government – that would provide up to $1,400 a week for two weeks to individuals who must quarantine or isolate because of exposure to the virus.

Biden’s plan also calls for creation of a State and Local Emergency Fund to provide states, cities and towns with federal funding to meet “critical health and economic needs to combat the crisis.” Governors and mayors would be given significant flexibility to use the funds.


Of course, all of these proposals will cost enormous amounts of money. And the two parties in Congress have been unable (or unwilling as the election loomed) to reach a compromise between each other and the Trump White House on an additional COVID-19 relief package to businesses, individuals and states.

Gov. Mills said she was excited that the president-elect has named a host of experts, rather than politicians, to the various groups advising him and his transition team on COVID-19.

“The President-Elect’s approach is one of leadership by example, based on science and medical expertise, not on politics,” Mills said in a statement to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. “While the Trump Task Force boasted of a ‘whole of America’ approach, its actions did not demonstrate national leadership but, instead, often left states to fend for themselves in finding testing supplies, identifying PPE providers and developing science-based guidance for schools, businesses and other activities. I am looking forward to having a strong federal partner in combating this deadly virus in the areas of prevention, testing and treatment, always listening to the science as our good North Star.”


When it comes to America’s energy future, Biden and Trump might as well be on opposite planetary poles.

While Trump courted the coal industry and enacted policies that emphasized U.S. production of oil and natural gas, Biden put forward a plan for a “clean energy revolution” that prioritizes renewable sources and mitigating climate change.


“I’m optimistic here that, with a steady hand on the wheel, clean energy can move forward in Maine,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

Biden has proposed a 10-year, $400 billion federal investment in clean energy research and innovation as part of a broader, $2 trillion plan to invest in clean energy, green jobs and infrastructure improvements. Additionally, Biden has called for weatherizing 2 million homes over the next four years, which has been a major focus of Efficiency Maine and other state programs for years.

Biden’s plan calls for additional federal investment in next-generation building materials, which has been a priority for researchers and forest products industry representatives in Maine. And he has called for doubling production from offshore wind turbines by 2030 – an energy sector that is ripe for development in the Gulf of Maine, which has some of the nation’s strongest and most consistent wind patterns.

Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office in Maine, said he is optimistic that the federal Department of Energy will continue its financial support for the University of Maine’s Aqua Ventus program developing offshore wind turbines for deployment in deep waters. Burgess said he hopes a Biden administration will also provide more guidance and clarity on siting and permitting of projects in federal waters.

He also noted that Biden has talked about development of energy storage technology, boosting or restoring tax credits that have helped spur energy investment in Maine and the types of infrastructure investments badly needed in the state.

“The policies they are putting forward on the energy side are very well-aligned with ongoing work of the Maine Climate Council” as well as state renewable energy policies, Burgess said.


Payne suspects that executive orders will be Biden’s “least bumpiest road,” at least initially, but expressed hope Congress will work with the administration on more significant energy policy changes. In the near term, Payne said he hopes Biden will eliminate tariffs that have increased the price of solar panels from China (the world’s largest producer) and will restore tax credits for the industry and consumers.

“Tax credits work,” Payne said. “It is a meaningful investment and it’s what has allowed us to have tens of thousands of jobs in recent decades.”


Biden has called climate change the greatest challenge facing the U.S. and the world. And he pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement “on Day 1” of his administration, reversing a Trump withdrawal decision that critics contend damaged the nation’s reputation globally and handed over leadership on climate issues to other countries.

The president-elect has signaled that he will set a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. by 2050. But he has also called for reversing Trump decisions to relax fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and loosen greenhouse gas emissions limits on oil and gas production facilities.

Biden has also said he will use the federal government’s purchasing power to drive production of American-made electric vehicles while working with governors and mayors to deploy 500,000 vehicle charging stations by the end of 2030.


“If he is able to enact even a portion of that, we will see (the federal government) as a very helpful partner with Maine,” said Hannah Pingree, who heads the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future in Maine.

In Maine, 54 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, trucks and other sources within the transportation sector while 19 percent stem from homes. By contrast, industrial sources account for only 9 percent of emissions while power plants – which are already regulated under the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – contribute only 7 percent.

Soon after taking office in January 2019, Gov. Mills pledged that Maine would stick to the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. For Maine, those goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. Additionally, Mills announced at a United Nations event in September 2019 that she is aiming to make Maine “carbon neutral” by 2045.

This month the Maine Climate Council created by Mills released a 73-page draft plan outlining steps to achieve those goals. One proposal for the critical transportation sector includes developing policies, incentives and pilot programs by 2022 to have 41,000 electric vehicles on Maine roads by 2025 and 219,000 EVs by 2030.

Most of the gains made in recent years in reducing Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector have come from increased federal fuel efficiency standards. So the Trump administration’s relaxation of those standards was a potential step backwards at a time when Maine is trying to achieve its ambitious climate-related goals.



In the final full year of the Obama administration, 642 refugees immigrated to Maine through the federal refugee resettlement program. This year just 46 refugees were resettled in Maine.

That more than 90 percent decline is due, in large part, to Trump administration policies that Biden has promised to repeal as he also pledges to work toward immigration reforms. Those broader reforms – including providing a “pathway to citizenship” for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants – will likely be difficult to get through a divided Congress, just as they eluded Biden and President Barack Obama during their eight years in the White House.

But Biden could use his executive authority to undo changes that Trump made via executive order – many of which were, in turn, reversals of executive actions by Obama.

In addition to halting construction of Trump’s border wall that has cost U.S. taxpayers (not Mexico) $15 billion to date, Biden has promised to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Known as DACA, the policy protected from deportation individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump terminated the program, only to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the administration’s decision, resulting in an unsettling legal limbo for many DACA recipients.

Reinstating DACA would affect only about 50 people in Maine, according to federal immigration statistics. Much larger numbers could be affected by Biden proposals to change Trump administration policies on asylum seekers and refugees.

Biden has said he would double the number of immigration judges, court staff and interpreters who handle asylum cases while also increasing the number of asylum case officers. He has also vowed to allow asylees to seek protection in the U.S. from political persecution, which is one reason cited by many Central African asylum seekers arriving in Maine.


The federal asylum system has been backlogged for years, resulting in often yearslong waits for applicants. This month, the American Civil Liberties union of Maine filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for information on why less than 8 percent of asylum applications in the Boston office were approved last year compared to 40 percent in 2016.

Biden has also pledged to increase the annual cap on refugee resettlements from 18,000 this year to 125,000. Trump had planned to further reduce the cap to 15,000, which is the lowest in decades.

Unlike asylum seekers, who arrive in the U.S. either on visas or on their own before requesting asylum, refugees are officially resettled in the U.S. through a federal program for people living in conflict zones or other dangerous situations. The State Department works with local nonprofits or agencies – such as Catholic Charities Maine – that help refugees resettle in areas.

In addition to the restrictive cap on refugee numbers, the Trump administration also imposed more exhaustive background-check processes for immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations. That has affected the number of refugees arriving in Maine from countries like Syria and Iraq.

Hannah DeAngelis, program director of Refugee and Immigration Services at Catholic Charities Maine, said the dramatic drop of refugee arrivals in Maine from 642 in 2016 to 46 this year corresponds with similar reductions nationwide. Those 46 individuals came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Sudan and Somalia – all countries that have contributed to a small but growing multinational population in the predominantly white state.

DeAngelis said she is hopeful that, under a Biden administration, more refugees could begin being processed in the second half of this fiscal year. But she said the systems that were in place outside the U.S. to help create a pipeline for refugees – or, equally important, for family members left behind in war-torn areas or refugee camps – “are broken or were paused” and are likely to take time to repair.


“I would say that I’m just hopeful that the United States can provide more opportunities to folks who fled (their homelands) … and that Maine families can be reunited with their loved ones,” DeAngelis said.


Biden and Trump tried to present voters with a stark economic choice in the Nov. 3 election, but business leaders in Maine say Biden’s win will likely bring both advantages and disadvantages for Maine’s economy.

Some of the changes they expect from the incoming Biden administration should be positive, such as a warming of trade relations between the United States and Canada and a greater emphasis on fighting the spread of COVID-19. But they fear other changes could be detrimental to businesses, such as a rollback of the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts and other tax changes that could affect small and family-owned businesses.

Whatever changes happen, business leaders said they hope for greater long-term stability across shifting administrations.

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said the relationship between Maine and Canada “has been tested” under Trump and that Biden might seek a more neighborly approach. That means issues such as trade disputes over wood and forestry products could be resolved, or at least tensions might be eased, he said.


Maine could also be helped if Republicans maintain control of the Senate and Sen. Susan Collins chairs the Appropriations Committee, which controls much of the spending by the federal government, Connors said. Collins and Biden are said to have a warm relationship from their time in the Senate together, he said, and they also share a pragmatic approach to problem-solving – any progress on spending issues would require cooperation between the parties.

Connors said he hopes the new administration doesn’t try to make too many changes too quickly. He said businesses like predictability, and that whipsawing policy shifts every four years don’t promote that stability.

“Sometimes, success involves more incremental steps rather than rapid change,” he said.

One local expert said it could take years for the effects of a change in the White House to filter down into Maine’s economy.

Kristin Vekasi, an assistant professor at the University of Maine’s School of Policy and International Affairs whose focus is on international political and economic issues, said international situations don’t necessarily move to resolution with a change in leadership on one side.

“We’re going to continue to have trade issues with China and we’ll probably see more negotiations” under a Biden administration, said Vekasi, who specializes in China and Japanese trade issues.



Lisa Martin, executive director of the Manufacturers Association of Maine, said she hopes the new administration will learn a lesson from late winter and spring, when the pandemic spread quickly and many health care providers found they didn’t have the equipment they needed, ranging from ventilators for patients to masks and gloves for health care workers.

Martin said about four dozen manufacturers in the state were able to shift gears and produce some of the items that were needed. In many cases, she said, the items were available, but U.S. manufacturers had moved production overseas, and the gloves, masks and medical devices needed were elsewhere and couldn’t be quickly transported to the United States.

Once word got out that Maine companies were shifting gears to produce some of those items, “my phone never stopped ringing for probably two solid weeks,” as officials in other states asked about buying masks and other items, she said.

“Maine stepped up – it was amazing,” Martin said. As a result, the state’s manufacturers got a boost in revenue and employment picked up in that sector.

That’s the lesson Martin hopes the Biden administration will learn, leading it to continue an effort to get U.S. companies to onshore their overseas operations.


“We can bring that back here – I think we can – but we have to step it up,” she said. “We need to create the environment.”


Patricia Soldano, president of Family Enterprise USA, worries proposed tax changes Biden spoke about during his campaign could hurt family-owned businesses, including many in Maine.

Still, many of the tax changes are aimed at individuals or businesses making more than $400,000 a year, Soldano said. That means any increase in taxes, or a rollback of the Trump tax cuts, would affect only about 1 percent of Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 4.1 percent of Maine households are classified as “high income households,” meaning that they earn at least $200,000 a year.

In Maine, the top 1 percent of earners make at least $390,000, with the average in that top tier making $871,388, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and information service. The average income for all tax filers in Maine is $66,809, the service said.

Soldano said she is heartened by signs that the Republicans may retain control of the U.S. Senate after a Georgia runoff election scheduled for Jan. 5. That would mean changes to taxes and other issues would require bipartisan cooperation, which could moderate some of the more extreme proposals.


Any tax and regulatory changes under Biden will “definitely impact family businesses,” she said. For instance, one idea is for an “asset tax” levied on people based on the value of their assets, rather than their income. If adopted, she said, family-owned businesses would likely have to pay for an appraisal every year and then face an additional tax based on the value of the business, regardless of how much income it generates.

Soldano also said there was some talk during the campaign of ending “pass-through” corporations, which are common among small and family-owned businesses. The company pays no taxes, but the owner or owners do so via their personal income taxes each year. Soldano said many business owners worry that could result in higher taxes.

But Soldano said she is banking on a longstanding feature of American government to weaken a Biden administration’s ability for dramatic changes, the same feature that limited Trump’s ability to accomplish much during his last two years in office: gridlock.

If Democrats control the U.S. House, Republicans run the Senate and Democrats have the White House, any change is likely to be incremental and the result of compromise, Soldano said, and that suits those worried about dramatic change just fine.

“We need to have a balance of power so there’s not one party controlling,” she said.

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