Mills Announces Help For Tenants As COVID-19 Kills And Infects More Mainers

Apr 16, 2020

Updated April 16, 2020 at 2:56 p.m. ET.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has issued an executive order that will bar landlords from evicting tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, and a $5 million relief program for eligible tenants who can't pay their rent.

"To make sure people can stay home, stay healthy at home, and Maine businesses can keep their storefronts alive," said Mills.

The Rent Relief Program provides one-time payments of up to $500 in rental assistance to eligible households.

Mills made the announcement at a Thursday briefing on the virus, which Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said took three more Maine lives and spread to 26 more people overnight, for a total of 798 cases so far.

Mills said her order contains an exception for tenants who engage in dangerous or unlawful behavior. She said it also strengthens the penalties for landlords who unlawfully try to evict tenants by, for example, changing the door locks.

Mills said she's also urging banks and financial institutions to halt foreclosures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the 798 COVID-19 cases that have occurred in Maine, 330 people have recovered, and 27 have died.  Since the pandemic began, 130 people have had to be hospitalized.

Shah said several of Maine's COVID-19 cases have occurred at nursing homes and other so-called congregate facilities. Shah said three new cases were discovered Thursday at Falmouth by the Sea, the latest such facility where COVID-19 infections have turned up.

"We immediately dispatched a shipment of PPE to the facility," Shah said.

So far, most of the cases - and deaths -  are in residents of Cumberland and York Counties. Community transmission is known to be occurring there and in Penobscot County. Shah said health officials have now determined that community transmission is also occurring in Androscoggin County. Piscaquis remains the only county in the state with no known cases.