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Business and Economy

Disaster relief checks for Mainers are in the mail

Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
A "help wanted" sign is taped to a sign outside a motel Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Wells, Maine. America’s tourist destinations are facing a severe worker shortage just as they’re trying to rebound from a devastating year lost to the pandemic.

The Mills administration said Tuesday that more than 500,000 "disaster relief" checks have gone out to Maine residents to help offset financial hardships experienced by working Mainers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of a legislative budget agreement earlier this year, the state sent checks for $285 to more than a half-million Maine residents who have worked during the pandemic. A spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Kelsey Goldsmith, said the last of the payments went out ahead of Friday's deadline. The agency is now attempting to re-process roughly 3,500 checks that were returned by the postal service, often because of an outdated address.

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 have been eligible. More information is available at https://www.maine.gov/revenue/check.

Lawmakers set aside nearly $150 million in the state budget for payments to working Mainers. Legislators are expected to debate similar, one-time payments or other forms of financial relief – including tax cuts – during the legislative session that begins next month because Maine’s tax revenues are projected to be more than $800 million higher than originally projected for the current budget.