Portland council extends coronavirus emergency resolution to Nov. 1

Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald, Maine
·2 min read

May 4—The City Council voted Monday to extend an emergency resolution — and street closures that have helped local restaurants stay in business during the pandemic — through Nov. 1.

The move comes as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is slated to hear oral arguments Tuesday about a new minimum wage ordinance — and a controversial hazard pay provision — approved by voters in November. That provision requires employers to pay 1.5 times the minimum wage during a state or city emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

The extension means the minimum wage in Portland will remain at $18 an hour for those who have to report to a workplace in Portland through most of the year, unless the court upholds a lower court ruling that found the hazard pay provision should not take effect until next year, which the city has argued.

Mayor Kate Snyder said the emergency resolution allows the city manager and staff to close roads to allow restaurants and retailers to set up on sidewalks, among other things.

"It's been a helpful tool," Snyder said. "We can always come back to it."

Five streets in the Old Port section of Portland are closed or partially closed to help retailers and restaurant owners. Exchange Street, which the city closed last year, will remain open to traffic this year.

Gov. Janet Mills has been extending the statewide emergency in 30-day increments. The current one expires May 13.

The city proclamation affects the city's land use code, and includes allowing developers to hold remote neighborhood meetings about new project proposals.

It also authorizes the city manager to control access to city parks and other grounds "deemed as necessary to protect the public health and safety," as well as modify rules and regulations for selling food and the operation of food trucks.

The extension passed unanimously, without public comment or council discussion.