Summer Camps in Maine Face Uncertain Future Due to COVID-19

The director of Maine Summer Camps, a non-profit association, says direct and indirect impacts of summer camps on the state's economy total $200 million annually

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As the weeks tick down until June, summer camp operators in Maine are keeping a close eye on the spread of COVID-19 to see if they’ll be able to open this year.

Some camps have already decided to close while others think they have a shot this season.

According to Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps, a non-profit association of more than 140 camp operators, direct and indirect impacts of summer camps on the state's economy total $200 million annually.

"Social distancing, that's really not in a camp's vocabulary," he said explaining the difficulties facing camps as they try to adapt to the virus. "We have camps that don't think they're going to be open, we have camps that hope they're going to be open and we have camps that definitely want to be open."

For smaller camps, Hall says the concerns are finances and space for people to spread out.

But for camps that are opening, there are still a lot of other unknowns like start dates, how to keep staff healthy and safe, and how to avoid large group activities.

"Camps might be operating from day one or they might be opening late," Hall said. "We're hoping in the next four or five days we have some guidance."

Hall is hoping for that guidance to come from the administration of Gov. Janet Mills and Maine's Center for Disease Control and says talks with the governor's task force is slated to happen soon.

Still, Hall admits there is a worry that camps, restaurants and other businesses will take a serious hit come summer.

"Bottom line, there are camps in Maine that if they don't open, they will not survive," Hall said.

If camps cannot open, some are hopeful to work with the state to provide some kind of help with the COVID-19 crisis.

Maine Summer Camps is also working with the state's congressional delegation to urge them to find support with Congress for funds for camps since the Paycheck Protection Program program for seasonal businesses like the ones they represent appears to be limited.

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