PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Fewer of Maine's small businesses are seeking help under a replenished Paycheck Protection Program aimed to helping employers weather the pandemic, officials say.

“We thought there would be a little more of a surge (of loan applications),” Renee Smyth of Camden National Bank told the Portland Press Herald. “We are not experiencing that right now.”

About 4,700 loans worth $371 million have been approved for Maine employers in the first two weeks.

Last year, lenders issued more than 28,000 PPP loans worth almost $2.3 billion to Maine employers.

Companies can apply for a second loan if they have 300 or fewer employees and show a revenue loss of at least 25% during any quarter of 2020 compared with the same period the year before.

But stricter application requirements, other funding options and the recovery of some industries from last year’s economic shock appear to be factors in reducing their need for more government help.

Camden National was one of the largest PPP lenders in 2020, processing more than 3,000 loans worth almost $245 million.

So far, it has made about one-quarter of that number of loans in the current round.

“The sense of urgency isn’t there,” Smyth said.

In other pandemic-related news:


The four members of Maine's congressional delegation have joined a bipartisan push for federal coronavirus relief for seafood processors.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said the delegation members want U.S. Department of Agriculture acting secretary Kevin Shea to implement a program that provides grants and forgivable loans to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King and Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins have also signed on to the effort.

The delegation said implementation of the grant and loan program would fulfill a promise made in the appropriations act Congress passed in December.

Maine is one of the most important states for U.S. seafood because it is home to most of the nation's lobster industry. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted seafood supply chains in Maine and around the country.

The delegation members said “the success of seafood processors to meet and overcome the challenges created by COVID is directly linked to the success of fishermen who risk their safety to harvest the seafood that Americans enjoy.”



The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.9%. 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 did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 5.81% on Jan. 20 to 2.9% on Feb. 3.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said the improved metrics suggest the state has turned the corner on the post-holiday virus surge. She also encouraged residents to continue observing social distancing and other safety protocols.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that more than 40,500 people in the state have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic. The agency has also reported 630 deaths.



Mills discouraged residents on Thursday from hosting or attending Super Bowl parties this coming weekend. Mills echoed the sentiment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease official. Fauci has called on residents to enjoy the Super Bowl at home with family.

“Please don’t forget the silent and ever present threat of COVID-19,” Mills said. “COVID-19 is not taking Super Bowl Sunday off.”