May 24, 2020

Congressional move expected to free up funds for disaster aid

Eleventh-hour congressional approval of nearly $1 billion in new money for a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid fund is expected to free up financial assistance for Maine cities and towns battered by storms and flooding this year.

Congress also cleared about $1 billion in disaster relief for farmers, which should help Maine’s agricultural sector.

The aid legislation, designed to generate a transfusion for the depleted FEMA fund, won final congressional approval Wednesday.

Sen. William S. Cohen, R-Maine, hailed passage.

“This bill will provide badly needed funds to repair roads, bridges, beaches and other public facilities that were damaged by the St. John River flood, Hurricane Bob and last month’s coastal storm,” Cohen said.

“In addition, it will help farmers who suffered substantial crop losses this year related to weather, particularly Maine’s potato and blueberry growers,” Cohen said.

More than half of Maine’s counties have been cited in disaster declarations and made eligible for federal aid.

Aroostook County flooding caused nearly $10 million in estimated damage in Allagash. Hurricane Bob was blamed for at least $5 million in losses, and public damage from the October coastal storm was pegged at about $3 million.

The August hurricane and late October storm “delivered a one-two punch that left many Maine communities reeling from unanticipated expenses,” Cohen noted.

“The extensive damage to buildings, roads, boats, trees, sea walls and beaches combined with the already poor economic climate have been cause for considerable concern in the affected cities and towns.

“I am confident this legislation will provide needed relief,” Cohen said.

The aid legislation could offer relief to Maine farmers whose crops were hurt by summer’s low level of rainfall. Some farms also were devastated by hail storms earlier this year.

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