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Maine Town Proposes Help For Local Businesses And Residents Reeling From Impacts Of Coronavirus

Charles Beck
Maine Public/file
The town of Bucksport, Maine, seen January 23, 2015.

As Mainers start to feel the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Bucksport's town manager, Susan Lessard, has proposed a way for the town to step up and help. Lessard spoke Wednesday with Maine Public's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz from the Bucksport town office, where she said she's been working to help her community keep calm.Lessard: The past several weeks have just been a flood of phone calls. People have a tendency when they don't know where else to go for information to call their local government. And that has been true in this case, as it has been another emergency situations.

Gratz: Tell me about the proposal.

The proposal is the result of a lot of thinking and concern about the most vulnerable in our community - those who are losing jobs, many for the first time to be thrown into an unemployment system that is totally overwhelmed, local businesses who operate on a very small margin but who took a chance on Bucksport. In the past several years when following the closure of the mill, much of the world had left us for dead. But these businesses came here or stayed here and are helping us in our recovery.

And we have seniors - a high population of seniors. So the proposal includes a card to local grocery stores of $100 a month for families that have lost jobs. And it includes $500 a month for April and May for small businesses who have had to close or who have been greatly curtailed. It includes waiving any fee for our senior meals program, which operates three days a week, and so no fee for that and delivery. That's all part of this.

So how much will this cost the town all together?

The proposal as laid out right now would be $115,000.

Is that something that Bucksport could repeat down the road if this goes on awhile?

Yes. This proposal isn't done without understanding that this could go longer than this. And so what's been proposed is doable now. This is a sort of a two-month proposal. If it had to extend another two months, it could do that.

Why did you feel it was important for the town to get involved in this?
This is a town of 5.000 people. I don't know everybody's name, but it's darn close. And the community has been through so much. The loss of the mill, the loss of 40% of its valuation, the spirit and sense of community here that has brought the community back all resides in the people who are here. They're the ones who have never stopped believing in Bucksport. And those people are important. These small businesses that filled our Main Street when there was nothing at the other end, no big anchor anymore. They took risk, and we want them to stay.

This proposal doesn't propose enough money to solve every problem. I recognize that, but it creates hope locally, and faith locally, that the government here is thinking about how to help them, how to keep everybody together. And some of these programs are ways to keep our sense of community cohesive.

Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard, speaking about her proposal that the town help distribute funds to residents in need during the current pandemic. The issue will be taken up by the Town Council this [Thursday, April 2] evening. Lessard says the town will offer a livestream of the meeting from the town's website.