Portland, Maine, ends emergency order, worker hazard pay
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s largest city has repealed an emergency order related to the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered increased hazard pay for workers.
The Portland City Council voted Monday to rescind the order, which had been in place since August. The order required the council to meet remotely during the pandemic.
Portland has a city ordinance that the minimum wage is increased by 1.5 times when a state or city emergency order is in place. The removal of the emergency order means minimum wage will go from $19.50 to $13 on Jan. 13, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said.
At the same meeting, the City Council enacted a new mask mandate that goes into effect Wednesday. Maine is the site of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases this winter.
The council will still be able to meet remotely in the future without the presence of the emergency order, Grondin said.
“Emergency orders are never meant to stay in effect for that long. They are meant to be temporary,” Grondin said.
Some activists in the city lobbied in favor of keeping the emergency order in place. Progressive Portland said in a statement that ending the order was the equivalent of “declaring that the pandemic emergency no longer exists” when cases are rising in Maine.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine was more than 700 on Jan. 2. Cases fell to less than 100 per day during the summer before rising sharply in fall and winter.
Maine has been the site of more than 148,000 cases of the virus and more than 1,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic. It’s also one of the most vaccinated states in the country, with more than 70% of the state’s population having received a final dose.
The city’s new mask mandate includes a carve out for businesses that require proof of vaccination to all on premises. Businesses must also post “mask required” signs starting Jan. 10, the city said in a statement. The statement said the City Council would review the ordinance in 30 days.