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Business and Economy

State to mail $285 COVID relief checks to 500,000-plus Mainers by month’s end

Because of the coronavirus, mail volume is down, and the U.S. Postal Service says it may run out of money by this summer.
AP
The Legislature set aside just shy of $150 million this year for one-time payments to help offset hardships experienced by working Mainers during the pandemic.

More than 500,000 Maine residents who worked during the pandemic could soon receive a "disaster relief" check from the state, if they haven't already.

The Legislature set aside just shy of $150 million this year for one-time payments to help offset hardships experienced by working Mainers during the pandemic. All eligible individuals will automatically receive a check for $285. Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa with the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services told lawmakers on Tuesday that more than 200,000 checks had been sent as of Friday and that all checks should be in the mail by the end of December.

"As the U.S. Postal Service is the final piece of the puzzle in terms of delivering these payments, and since we are in the holiday season, I think we are adjusting our timeframe of: if you haven't received your check by late-January, that's the time to call us,” Figueroa told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

To be eligible, individuals must have earned wages, salary or other "taxable employee pay" during 2020 and filed a state income tax return by October 31. The income cap is $75,000 for single people or married individuals filing separately, $150,000 for married couples filing jointly and $112,500 for heads of household. Anyone who is claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return in 2020 is ineligible for a payment, however. Additionally, business income does not meet the eligibility requirements adopted by the Legislature for the program, so self-employed individuals may not be eligible.

"More often than not, though, we have heard deep gratitude from Maine people for this payment in particular the timing for the winter and holiday season,” Figueroa said.

Between 1.5 and 2% of checks have been returned to Maine Revenue Services because of mailing address issues, although Figueroa said the department would endeavor to resend those payments. Instructions for notifying Maine Revenue Services about a change of address can be found at www.maine.gov/revenue/check or by calling (207) 624-9924.