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COVID-19 Resources & Information

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September 11, 2020

Information Center:

The Information Center is now open with abbreviated hours from 10am-2pm Monday through Friday. We welcome you stopping by but please adhere to covid 19 protocol and wear a mask when entering our office and information center.

Maine Tourism Insider - New Pitch Competition to Help Marine and Coastal Businesses Address COVID-19 Challenges

Maine Sea Grant is pleased to announce Buoy Maine, a new pitch competition to fund innovative projects and ideas to help coastal businesses better address the challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition consists of two phases — a short, written proposal and a five-minute verbal pitch — and concludes with a virtual public celebration.

“We continue to be inspired by the creativity and resourcefulness Maine’s coastal businesses have already shown as declines in tourism, shifting markets, and other challenges continue to impact the way they operate,” said Gayle Zydlewski, director of Maine Sea Grant. “These funds are meant to celebrate that tradition of ingenuity and provide the resources to help transformative ideas become reality.”

Businesses and nonprofits are invited to submit proposals for up to $15,000 to implement new ideas or support existing projects. Applicants that advance to the next phase of the competition will pitch to a panel of judges in October. Pitches that receive funding will be made public after the pitch event.

Maine Sea Grant encourages collaborations from the diverse sectors connected to Maine’s marine and coastal communities — including seafood, tourism, new products or markets, technology, and more — and is supportive of ideas and innovations with broader impacts and benefits. Applications are due September 14. For instructions on how to apply, visit our applications details page.

Funding for the awards comes from the US Department of Commerce as part of a 2020 COVID Rapid Response effort, Maine Technology Institute (MTI), Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, and Maine Community Foundation.
 

Reminder - Two New Grant Programs Available

Economic Recovery Grant Program - Deadline: September 9th

Just a reminder that there are two new grant programs available to Maine’s small businesses. About two weeks ago, we told you about the state’s Economic Recovery Grant Program. This provides grants to Maine businesses and non-profits with 50 or fewer employees impacted by COVID-19 and is backed by $200 million in federal CARES Act funds. The online application and other information is available on DECD’s website. Applications can be submitted now through September 9, 2020, with awards made in early October. The grants will NOT be distributed on a first-come, first served basis so you can apply anytime during the application period. For any questions not addressed in the program description or FAQs please call 1-800-872-3838 and press 3, or email: BizAwards.DECD@maine.gov.

We encourage everyone who may be eligible to apply. Although the amount of grant money available is far less than the need, the Governor has stated that this is a starting point and, if further federal funds become available, more assistance will be provided to Maine’s businesses. MTA will continue to advocate for more money to assist our tourism businesses in surviving this year and recovering next year. It will be beneficial if the state sees the full scope of the need. Specifically, if a great number of eligible businesses apply and are denied because the funds ran out, that may encourage the state to fund this or another program at a higher level in the future—because they will clearly see the unmet need. Also, we don’t know how a possible next distribution of grants will be determined so even if you don’t receive funds this time, it could be beneficial to have completed the application process now.

Micro-Enterprise CDBG (Community Development Block) Grants

Maine’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) is partnering with DECD to provide grants of up to $5,000 for businesses with five or fewer employees if the owner’s income is in the low to moderate range. Eligible businesses must also show revenue loss as a direct consequence of COVID-19. Please visit the SBDC’s website for more information and to apply.
 

PPP Forgiveness Application Walk-Through Videos from the SBCDC

Maine SBDC has created helpful videos to walk you through each of the Forgiveness Applications for the Paycheck Protection Program. In the series, Business Advisor Peter Harriman walks you through which application is right for your business, the EZ3805 Short Form, and the 3805 Long Form. Go here to view the videos.
 

Maine Tourism Association Partnering with Destination Travel Network to offer Yext

As part of our collective recovery efforts, Maine Tourism Association and the Destination Travel Network (DTN) are partnering to give you access to a service we believe is critical to your recovery and the direct support needed to help you take full advantage of that service. We work with DTN to offer our members the opportunity for premium exposure to on mainetourism.com and we’re excited to be working with them to help your organization ensure you’re accurately represented throughout the internet.

To that end, we’re reaching out to let you know the DTN team, on behalf of Maine Tourism Association will be reaching out — in the next week or so — to give you more information about Yext, a tool we believe is critical for your business and our collective success as a destination.

What is Yext?

Yext is a listing syndication and reputation management platform that gives you the power to ensure your business is consistently and accurately represented across the internet, in one single place. It stores the key information about your business and sends that information to over 100+ digital directories like Google My Business, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Tripadvisor, Google Maps, as well as voice search platforms like Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa. It also allows you to engage with your customers in near real-time through its reviews and reputation management platform.

Even during the pandemic, travelers are eager to plan trips and our community members are looking for more things to do in our destination, our goal is to help you highlight the key facts about your business, on all the platforms travelers are looking.

Have questions in the meantime? Contact Bailey Underhill at baileyunderhill@mainetourism.com
 

Maine Tourism Relief Fund - Relief for Hardship due to COVID-19

Since May, the Maine Tourism Relief Fund has given over 150 grants to small businesses and individuals in the tourism industry across the state. But, as you know, visitor numbers are still down 50-70% and many are struggling to keep their doors open. In addition, this is the last week of expanded unemployment benefits.

In light of this, we are currently fundraising for another round of grant funds to be distributed across Maine. 100% of all donations will go straight to small businesses and individuals working in tourism in the state. We know everyone in our industry is currently experiencing these difficulties, but if you or your contacts are interested in supporting this fund, we would greatly appreciate your support!  Please feel free to share this with your industry partners as well!
 

SBA Disaster Relief Updates

PPP Application Period Extended to August 8th

The application period for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been extended to August 8th. PPP provides businesses impacted by COVID-19 with a forgivable loan for payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and specific utilities.
 

EIDL Still Available

The SBA has reopened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to all eligible small businesses. The EIDL provides low-interest, long-term loans to small businesses which can be used for working capital, payroll, accounts payable, and short-term debts. This program also provides up to $10,000 advance ($1,000 per employee, up to $10,000) that does not need to be paid back.

Let's Be Kind Campaign

Retail Association of Maine, Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association and Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce have launched the Let's Be Kind campaign!  Businesses across Maine are asking the public to practice kindness and respect toward workers and each other as shops, restaurants, lodging and other businesses reopen following the unprecedented shutdown caused by COVID-19.

Learn more about the "Let's Be Kind" campaign - and access a toolkit for YOU to help spread the word - at http://www.retailmaine.org/lets-be-kind-campaign/

Are you Running any Specials for August or September?

We want to promote it.  Now is a great time to promote in-state deals for lodging, restaurants and entertainment! We are encouraging Mainers to take their vacation right here in their home state this summer.
Add your specials to our website via the member portal. Then we will share them to our Facebook Page. Make sure to tag us on social media as well!  Have questions? Contact Bailey Underhill at baileyunderhill@mainetourism.com or call 207-623-5642

eLearning University is now FREE for Maine Tourism Association Members!

Welcome to the Maine Tourism Association's eLearning program. Do you know that you now have access to 350+ hours of recorded tourism marketing courses as well as access to live tourism marketing webinars every Thursday?  To sign up and get your own unique username and password to access the recorded programs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, click here:  http://www.elearningu.com/public/1143.cfm
To then log in to view the Recorded Webinars, go to:  http://www.elearningu.com/members/department184.cfm   You will receive information about each week's live webinar every Monday afternoon. See this and next week's classes below.
Online Course Benefits:

  • Maine Tourism Association is providing free access to our Maine tourism industry partners ($1,764 annual value)!
  • All courses are tourism-focused and are delivered by industry experts on an array of topics of interest to tourism professionals - Internet and social media marketing, branding, customer service, packaging, etc.
  • You take the courses online from the convenience of your office which means very little down time and no travel time.
  • Courses are available "live" where you can ask questions at the end of the program.
  • Courses are also recorded and available at any time giving you access to the courses whenever you need them, wherever you want to take them.
  • You can suggest specific topics and specific speakers.

FREE for Maine Tourism Association members when you use Coupon code MAINE
Join Us For The Next Online Class: Stop Sending Newsletters: The Secret to eMail Marketing Success For Tourism
CVBs, DMOs, hotels, attractions, airports…everyone knows email marketing is important. In fact, McKinsey indicates that email marketing is 4,300% more effective that social media. Most travel and tourism businesses are not seeing returns like this, though, and it's because they are relying on newsletter to build conversions. In this webinar you'll learn how to shift your email strategy beyond newsletters to a sophisticated, personalized tactic that will earn you up to $43 for every dollar invested.  Date: Thursday, July 23rd   Time: 2PM
Registration Fee $49.95 FREE when you use the coupon code, MAINE
 

July 16, 2020

Public Service Announcement from Norway Savings Bank

First it was toilet paper and now this! The Federal Reserve has announced a critical shortage of coin in circulation. Not only has the economic slowdown contributed to the shortage, but the U.S. Mint also halted production for a time during the nationwide quarantine. The shortage is expected to last for quite a long time unless we all do our part to help. The coin shortage is already impacting the way many businesses are conducting transactions. For instance, several grocery store chains have announced that they are not giving change in cash transactions. What you can do:

  1. Ask your customers to pay with exact change or with a debit or credit card.
  2. Empty your coin jars and couch cushions. Bring your rolled coin to your bank for cash or deposit.
  3. Tell your friends and family about the shortage and ask that they roll their coin and bring it in to the bank.

July 8, 2020

Executive Order Impacts Large Retailers in Key Areas to Enforce Facial Covering Requirement.

A week ago, Governor Janet Mills announced that retailers larger than 50,000 square feet in certain counties and communities would be required to enforce the facial covering requirement.
 
This afternoon, the executive order language was issued with an accompanying press release.
Here's what you need to know:
  • It impacts retailers with 50,000 square feet of selling space or more in Cumberland, York, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Sagadahoc Counties or in the communities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta.
  • It also impacts restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and lodging properties.
  • It states that these businesses "shall implement measures requiring customers to wear face coverings. Such measures may, for example, include denial of entry or service."
  • So, what does that mean? I specifically asked what does a retailer have to do beyond the required signage that facial coverings are mandatory? The department said that they are leaving that up to the retailer to determine but the expectation would be that it would be more than simply posting signage. While it does not require you to station someone at the entrance to verbally remind customers about the requirement, that would be a logical enforcement step.
  • I then posed the scenario of a customer bent on not wearing a facial covering, and they stressed that you can deny them service. You are welcome to offer them curbside or some other accommodation. We emphasized our concern of putting retail employees in harm's way and they acknowledged that if the person still enters they store, you need to keep your people safe, avoid any kind of physical confrontation and let them enter the store. However, the department has also been working with the Department of Public Safety to make sure municipal law enforcement and code enforcement will assist with enforcement when appropriate. So, please do not hesitate to contact law enforcement or your municipality if there is an escalation.
  • We've also been told verbally that even people with a medical condition can still wear a facial shield. Unfortunately, that clarification was not included in the press conference or executive order, but we are hopeful it will be included in additional written guidance.
  • If a customer claims to have a medical exception, you can offer to accommodate them with curbside service or delivery and deny them entry.
  • Additionally, we asked what happens when the state receives a complaint that you are not enforcing the mandate? DECD reiterated that they want to make sure the retailer is making the effort at enforcement vs a business that chooses to simply ignore the order. If you are making consistent effort yet still receive a complaint, the state will work with you to improve, if possible. However, if a business is not complying and making the effort, those businesses could face license violations and other penalties.
  • The order takes effect today.
My final word of advice is that although this order only impacts certain retailers and other businesses, it is reasonable to expect that this order may be expanded down the road to all retailers in all locations. So, please pay attention to how this expanded order is working in the coming days.
 
We know how stressful the facial covering requirement has been for many of you and you've had to deal with unruly customers. We are very sorry about that, and hope that efforts like our Let's Be Kind campaign will help turn the tide.

 


July 2, 2020

Relief Packages Still Available for Businesses!

The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overview of The Program

As part of our coronavirus debt relief efforts, the SBA will pay 6 months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all current 7(a), 504, and Microloans in regular servicing status as well as new 7(a), 504, and Microloans disbursed prior to September 27, 2020.

This relief is not available for Paycheck Protection Program loans or Economic Injury Disaster loans. Borrowers do not need to apply for this assistance. It will be automatically provided as follows:
  • For loans not on deferment, SBA will begin making payments with the next payment due on the loan and will make six monthly payments.
  • For loans currently on deferment, SBA will begin making payments with the next payment due after the deferment period has ended, and will make six monthly payments.
  • For loans made after March 27, 2020 and fully disbursed prior to September 27, 2020, SBA will begin making payments with the first payment due on the loan and will make six monthly payments.
SBA has notified 7(a), 504 and Microloan Lenders that it will pay these borrower loan payments. Lenders have been instructed to refrain from collecting loan payments from borrowers. If a borrower's payment was collected after March 27, 2020, lenders were instructed to inform the borrower that they have the option of having the loan payment returned by the lender or applying the loan payment to further reduce the loan balance after SBA's payment.

Borrowers should contact their lender if they have any questions regarding this payment relief.

Mia Purcell
Vice President of Economic Development and Impact


June 23, 2020

Maine Tourism Headlines:

Certificate of Compliance!

The Certificate of Compliance that guests of all lodging establishments must sign has been finalized. That document can be found here:  Certificate of Compliance

The Maine State Visitor Information Centers are now Open!

The seven Maine State Visitor Information Centers are officially open.
Now more than ever, is the time to make sure you are visible to Maine visitors. 
Make sure you are displaying your most updated brochures, your digital kiosk
listing is up to date, as well as your video display and exhibits!

 

Are You Hiring?

As our economy begins to reopen, you may be placing ads on job boards to attract talent. But are you posting high quality job descriptions? Unclear, vague or confusing job requirements can turn off potential applicants. It can also reflect poorly on the company brand. Even when unemployment is high, top job candidates may be reluctant to apply for a job that isn’t fully explained. That's why the Maine Tourism Association wants to help you get the word out! We are offering free job post consulting, editing, and proofreading. Send us your job descriptions and we'll help you make them shine! 

Don't let your advertising dollars go to waste. Email your job descriptions to Kathryn Ference, our Director of Workforce Development, at kference@mainetourism.com and take advantage of this free service! 

Once you have your listing ready, don't forget to add your job listing to our Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce website by submitting your post today.  Check out who is hiring now at http://business.oxfordhillsmaine.com/jobs/
Contact:
John Williams, Executive Director
john@oxfordhillsmaine.com, 207-743-2281

Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce

4 Western Avenue South Paris, ME 04281
207.743.2281
info@oxfordhillsmaine.com

© Copyright 2017 Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved.