Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
In December, a powerful rain and wind storm brought severe flooding, power outages, and extensive damage to central and western Maine in particular.
After the storm, I wrote a letter to President Biden formally requesting a Major Disaster Declaration — and the federal funding that comes along with it — to help us repair damaged roads and bridges, as well as public buildings and other public infrastructure in the Maine counties hardest hit by the storm.
In addition to public assistance, I also asked President Biden for help for individual families hard hit by the storm. I told President Biden that families who are trying to recover from the December storm are having an awful hard time finding local, skilled contractors and affordable housing alternatives while their homes and businesses are under repair. And that they’re struggling to pay the high cost of replacing major household items or removing mold caused by the flooding.
I am very pleased to say that President Biden has approved both of those requests.
As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in partnership with our Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and other State agencies, will establish Disaster Recovery Centers in Maine communities that were impacted by the storm.
Those centers will connect Maine families and business owners connect with federal agencies, find out about federal disaster assistance, check the status of their applications, and to understand notices or letters about their applications, among other services.
The locations and time frames of the Disaster Recovery Centers are being finalized and will be announced as soon as possible. More information about who is eligible for personal assistance, and how to apply for that, will also be released by MEMA.
I thank President Biden for his promptly approving our request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which will allow hard-hit communities in Maine move forward after the December storm.
Of course, Maine was also hit by two other powerful storms in January and I have directed MEMA to begin the Major Disaster Declaration process for those storms as well. If federal officials agree that the damage from those storms qualifies, I will certainly seek another Federal Disaster Declaration from President Biden.
My Administration will continue to do everything possible to help Maine recover from the recent catastrophic weather events that we’ve had and to make our communities more resilient to the impacts of our changing climate.
Earlier this week, in my State of the State Address, I proposed that we make two significant investments to improve infrastructure that is vulnerable to flooding, or rising sea levels, and other extreme events.
First, I proposed that we invest $5 million in our Community Resilience Partnership to help another 100 cities, towns, and tribal governments create plans to address local vulnerabilities to extreme weather, adding to the 175 communities that have already joined that Partnership since it launched.
And second, I proposed investing $50 million of our record high “Rainy Day” Fund into the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund, which provides grants for significant infrastructure adaptation, repair, and improvements.
Essentially, I’m proposing that we take $50 million from our Rainy Day savings fund to repair the damage from these very rainy days that we’ve had – and get ready for some more rainy days ahead.
Communities across Maine can use those grants for working waterfront structures, culverts, storm water systems, water system upgrades, and other interventions that reduce or eliminate climate impacts, especially coastal and inland flooding.
So, while we seek every available federal dollar for disaster assistance and resiliency, it is critical we focus state funds on repairing and making our working waterfront more resilient so our fishing industry can get things up and running in the next few months before the height of fishing season.
I hope that the Legislature promptly approves these commonsense investments that will strengthen our infrastructure in the long term.
With help from the Federal government and the support of the Legislature, and with the ingenuity and grit that are the hallmark of Maine people, we will rebuild stronger than ever.
This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.