Maine COVID grant program’s website crashes on 1st day

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An online portal designed to help Maine’s hospitality and tourism businesses obtain grants crashed on Thursday, the day it was scheduled to start taking applications.

Business owners reported problems with the portal after it opened at 9 a.m., the Portland Press Herald reported. The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development shut down the application less than two hours after it opened.

The portal will be open for applications again starting Friday morning, the department said.

The tool allows businesses to apply for up to $20,000 in grants as part of a $40 million aid program announced by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills earlier in the week.

In other virus news in Maine:

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NEW CASES

The surge of COVID-19 is continuing in Maine with the daily number of coronavirus cases topping 300 for the first time Thursday.

There were 346 new cases reported over the past 24 hours, and two more deaths, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported. New cases were reported in 15 of the state’s 16 counties, the Maine CDC said.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.3%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 1.86% on Nov. 18 to 2.3% on Dec. 2.

The Maine CDC has reported more than 12,500 cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic. It has also reported 220 deaths.

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UNEMPLOYMENT HELP

Maine’s independent U.S. senator has joined a call for the federal government to extend pandemic unemployment benefits before they run out.

Sen. Angus King said Wednesday that Congress must extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. King joined a group of more than two dozen senators that called on U.S. Senate leadership to make the extension.

The government needs to allow additional weeks for eligibility for workers, King said. Otherwise, about 4.4 million workers will have already run out of benefits by the end of the year and millions more will exhaust them next year, he said.

“For many, the knowledge of this benefits cliff will hang over them while they celebrate Christmas morning, share a meal for Christmas dinner, or observe other holidays with their families in the middle of what has already been a difficult and tragic year,” King and the other senators wrote in a letter to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York.

The Maine Department of Labor said Maine residents made 700 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance during the week that ended Nov. 28.

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