Maine's tourism industry requests more state funding

24 Aug 2020 11:50 AM
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The Maine Tourism Association said the brand new $200 million worth of grant funding is 25 % of what it asked for.

The other day, Governor Mills announced a fresh grant program to help small businesses damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. $200 million will be awarded to businesses who apply and meet certain standards like having 50 or fewer employees.

It's no secret that the pandemic, and the closures and restrictions that was included with it, is impacting Maine's economy. A state nicknamed 'Vacationland' will depend on the summertime months and out of state guests to keep a large number of stores in business.

Tony Cameron may be the CEO of the Maine Tourism Association. He says these grants will be ideal for businesses but it's not what the Association and other hospitality groups were requesting.

“Tourism is absolutely the core of Maine, it’s the spirit of Maine, Cameron said. “I just don’t think it’s enough overall to help the businesses that truly need it."

Earlier this summer those groups asked the state for $800 million in funding to support the tourism industry. Cameron added it is a big amount to require but says there are 10,000 to 12,000 tourism-based businesses in Maine.

“800-million when you break it up compared to that many businesses it isn’t lots of money," Cameron said.

“We’re hopeful that more money will likely be coming down and we will certainly advocate for that and anything we are able to do to utilize the administration and our legislative officials, we will surely do that.” 

Timothy Rich are the owners of The Independent Cafe in Bar Harbor. Earlier come early july he said some businesses around were financially down 80-90% from what they were at last year.

Following the Fourth of July, things found but with no cruise lines coming to dock this fall, Rich said the fall and winter season will be "harsh" for businesses.

Rich added he is also disappointed that the state only awarded a fourth of what the industry asked for in financial aid. He said with the grant application criteria, many businesses can't even apply.

“It seems like a major screw you to people that are working hard and trying to do the proper thing," Rich added.

The program money is defined to be distributed in October. Cameron added the Department of Economic and Community Development will use a formula based on losses and must distribute those funds.

As the tourism and small company industries await more funding, stores and shops across Maine continue steadily to try to survive come early july of COVID-19.

“We’re hoping that people can do everything we are able to to greatly help businesses survive this season and recover next year," Cameron said.