Maine's economic relief program is about to be put into effect, benefitting an estimated 858,000 people.
The first round of 5,000 $850 relief checks will be sent to Maine residents on Thursday, and will be followed by waves of 200,000 checks per week in subsequent weeks, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday.
In late April, Mills signed the budget into law after overwhelming approval by the state Legislature.
A potential shortage of envelopes threatened to delay the distribution of the checks, but Mills' office said officials secured what they needed to get the money out and expect the majority of people who have already filed their 2021 taxes will receive their checks by mid-July.
"I know that Maine people are feeling the pinch of higher prices, and Governor Mills, along with the Legislature, are delivering one of the strongest relief proposals in the country to help them,” said Henry Beck, Maine state treasurer.
The relief program is anticipated to return $729.3 million of the state's budget surplus to Maine's residents via $850 checks. This amount is expected to average $1,700 in relief per family, and was revised upward several times in recent months thanks to federal funding and increased tax revenues.
"While we cannot control inflation or global markets, we can make sure that Maine people have what they need to grapple with these rising costs," Mills said.
In addition to paying back Maine residents, the budget boosts income tax exemptions for retiree pensions, provides property tax relief for older Mainers, lower income tenants and homeowners, and offers assistance to child care workers.
The program also includes $20 million to fund two years of community college for eligible graduation high school students between 2020 and 2023, as well as $60 million to address contamination from so-called forever chemicals including PFAS.
In order to receive a check, Maine residents must make themselves eligible by filing an income tax return as a full-time resident.
Those who have not already filed their 2021 income tax return in the state of Maine have until October 31, 2022 to file and receive their $850 check. Residents can check the status of their check at this website.