More than half a million Mainers are expecting disaster relief payments of $285 before the end of 2021.
The money will arrive in the form of a paper check mailed to people in Maine who were working during the pandemic, officials said. The payments will only go to those who earned an adjusted gross income of under $75,000, for people filing as individuals, or $150,000 for people filing jointly.
The first checks were sent last week and will continue to go out at a rate of "5,000 and 20,000 payments on most days between now and Dec. 31," said Kirsten Figueroa, commissioner of Maine's Department of Administrative and Financial Services.
Figueroa explained that the checks are a "thank you" from state lawmakers and Gov. Janet Mills to people employed during the pandemic. They were included in a bipartisan budget agreement and were meant to complement other financial programs that are intended to benefit Mainers, like property tax relief and increased school funding.
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In total, Figueroa said that $149.8 million will be distributed to about 525,000 people, with state law requiring the checks be sent -- not received -- by New Year's Eve, though officials expect checks to be in recipients' before then.
People visiting Portland's Western Promenade on Monday afternoon said they were generally supportive of the program.
However, some believed the $285 amount could have been higher, and the checks sent more quickly.
"Maine could have done a lot better by people, everybody that was working for so long," said Patricia St. John, a Portland resident.
"I busted myself at the grocery store to get people groceries," she added. "That's all we're worth?"
Asked about the checks' amount, Figueroa pointed to the Maine Legislature's decision and reiterated that they are only one part of a comprehensive budget plan that has the aim of reducing cost burdens on Maine families.
Maine residents who are unsure of their eligibility of the relief payments can go to maine.gov/revenue/check to see if they should expect a check.