Governor Mills Requests Major Disaster Declaration from President Biden Following Severe December Winter Storm

Governor Janet Mills has requested that President Joe Biden issue a Major Disaster Declaration for several Maine counties in the wake of the severe winter storm that battered Maine in late December.

In a letter to the President yesterday, Governor Mills said that high winds and significant rainfall during the storm led to substantial flooding, extensive road washouts and closures, widespread power outages, and infrastructure damage that are beyond the State’s capability to address.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has validated damage assessments for Knox, Oxford, Somerset, and Waldo counties. FEMA continues to undergo the validation process for Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties. The Governor requested the President issue a Disaster Declaration for all seven counties, in the event that FEMA ultimately validates damages in those counties still under review. If approved, the Major Disaster Declaration would unlock Federal assistance programs for public infrastructure. 

“All damaged infrastructure that has completed the validation process has been verified as not eligible for commercially available insurance coverage, and therefore, all repair costs must be covered by local government taxpayers if Federal assistance is not obtained,” Governor Mills wrote in her letter to the President. “At this time, the State and four participating counties have successfully met their respective per capita thresholds and we believe that three additional counties will be validated as meeting their respective thresholds in the coming weeks. I once again humbly request that you declare a Major Disaster for the counties of Cumberland, Franklin, Knox, Oxford, Somerset, Waldo, and York in the state of Maine as the impacts of the December 23rd – 24th storm have exceeded our available capabilities.”

In January, Maine formally requested a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) for Public Assistance. On-site assessments were conducted across a total of six counties between January 9th and 13th (Cumberland, Knox, Oxford, Somerset, Waldo, and York), with virtual assessments occurring across two counties (Franklin and Kennebec) between January 17th and 18th. The statewide PDA has to date validated $3,280,380 in public infrastructure damages, and the state’s damage total is expected to rise as MEMA and FEMA continue to work with county and local partners to complete the validation of damages across Cumberland, Franklin. and York counties in the coming weeks.

The requests are specifically for Public Assistance (PA) Program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. FEMA’s Public Assistance Program provides supplemental grants to State, local, and Tribal governments so communities can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program provides funding to State, local, and Tribal and governments so they can develop hazard mitigation plans and rebuild in a way that reduces, or mitigates, future disaster losses in their communities.

A copy of Governor Mills’ letter to the President (PDF) is attached.