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Maine Business Grant Applications To Reopen Friday After System Crash

Rebecca Conley
Maine Public
Waves Oceanfront Resort in Old Orchard Beach in May.

The state has temporarily shut down the application portal for an economic recovery grant program after it crashed Thursday morning, leaving many business owners confused and concerned.

It’s been a hard year for Michelle Peacock, the co-owner of Camden’s Blue Harbor House Inn. She says pandemic-related restrictions and their economic effects have reduced business by 70 percent.

“That definitely affected our revenue. And pretty much anyone else that is in the lodging, or any kind of hospitality, industry,” she says.

Peacock was hoping to apply for a new economic recovery grant from the state Thursday morning. The Mills administration announced earlier this week that the program would provide $40 million to retail, food and lodging operations, which have been battered by the pandemic.

The program is first come, first served, so Peacock was ready to apply at 9 a.m. sharp. She filled most of the application out in a few minutes. But she says when she reached the “agreement” page, it froze. She attempted to submit the application at least 30 times, she says.

“So it was like a good 45 minutes of me just trying to resubmit, resubmit, resubmit, and it wouldn’t go through. And then we found out that everything was down,” she says.

As the Maine Department of Community and Economic Development later explained, the application system, which is used by multiple states, had crashed. Commissioner Heather Johnson says some businesses were able to get through and submit their applications and have received confirmation emails. But she says for fairness, the department decided to close the portal and reopen it at 9 a.m. Friday.

Johnson says Thursday morning’s error was a national issue and is unrelated to the volume of applications that came from Maine. But she says the department will be working closely with its tech team to make sure applicants will avoid glitches when they apply on Friday.

“So I think we will do everything we can do to make everyone has equitable and immediate access to the tool for tomorrow morning,” Johnson says.

Johnson also emphasized that the program has $40 million — enough for more than 2,000 grants. And she says a substantial amount of that funding is still available for businesses that apply on Friday.