PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's dairy farmers and specialty crop growers have received the bulk of federal aid that's designed to help food producers weather the coronavirus pandemic.
Farmers in the state have received nearly $20 million in total. About $9.1 million has gone to specialty crop growers, who grow products such as fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. Dairy farmers have received $8.7 million of the total.
The rest of the money has gone to livestock farmers and non-specialty crop farmers, according to the office of Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. She said the assistance is vitally important to help Maine's farms survive the pandemic.
“The supply chain disruptions and restaurant closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have placed increasing financial pressure on Maine's rural farming communities, from newly founded farms to operations that have been passed down from generation to generation,” she said.
The money is from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which was created through the CARES Act. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, and other lawmakers have charged recently that the program is in need of better oversight.
Pingree and others sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue earlier this month that said “direct payments to producers have largely overlooked small farms, and those that are owned by beginning, veteran, minority, and socially disadvantaged farmers.” She also said less than 400 of Maine's 7,600 farms had received federal COVID-19 relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of Aug. 4.
The school board that oversees Maine's largest school district was scheduled to vote on whether to adopt a hybrid proposal to reopen schools. The vote was scheduled for Wednesday evening.
The Portland Board of Public Education was scheduled to vote on the hybrid proposal on Tuesday, but postponed its vote. The district serves more than 6,700 students.
Maine has had more than 4,200 reported cases of the virus. The state has also been the site of 127 deaths from the coronavirus.
The Bangor Raceway is launching its 142nd season after a months-long delay because of the pandemic.
The harness-racing season that was supposed to begin back in May kicks off Wednesday afternoon at Bass Park.
Mike Cushing, president of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, told the Bangor Daily News it's a “great relief” to begin racing in Bangor. Maine’s other harness-racing track, in Scarborough, already resumed racing.
For now there are no spectators because of a COVID-19 testing center is on the Bass Park property. Once that's moved to another location, as many as 200 spectators will be allowed.
Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report.