BANGOR — Ask and you may receive. That was the word from the Disaster Recovery Center which opened Monday at 10 Franklin St. so that residents can amass information from a variety of federal disaster assistance programs.
The assistance is available in the wake of the Ice Storm of ’98, which was compounded by a second storm which hit much of the state last weekend. Power crews for both Central Maine Power Co. and Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. had restored most of their customers’ service by late Monday.
“People who are curious if they’re eligible for assistance should call rather than just rule themselves out,” said Rob Roberts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “This is a situation that people don’t have to deal with very often, so there is a bit of confusion as to what is available.
“But there is a wide variety of assistance disaster programs,” he said, “and a lot of people have been affected in some way.”
Other recovery centers have been set up in Augusta and Lewiston.
Roberts and officials from the Small Business Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Farm Service Agency and the Eastern Area Agency on Aging will provide relief information to Maine residents who suffered loss or damage to their homes, personal property or businesses because of the recent ice storms, rain and winds.
Roberts said help is available through tax relief programs; low-interest business and individual loans; and disaster unemployment. He said people could be reimbursed for motel and hotel costs, repairs and expenditures for extra wood, kerosene or generators.
Officials said Monday afternoon that only a few people had wandered in, but that it was still early in the recovery period. The Bangor center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“We hope that as people start hearing back from agencies and finding out what programs are available they’ll start developing questions,” said Roberts. `If they’re confused someone will sit down and help them with their paperwork.
“We find it much better to deal with people face to face rather than on the phone,” he added.
He said that prior to coming to the recovery center, residents should call 1-800-462-9029 to register for disaster relief, and to be referred to a specific program. An inspector will come to their home within seven to 10 days.
Roberts said more than 13,000 residents have registered so far, and that the center “would be here as long as there seems to be a need.” He encouraged those who have been affected by last weekend’s storm also to seek disaster relief. For help, call 1-800-525-0321.
U.S. Rep. John Baldacci said Monday that he expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise the ice storm disaster declaration to include damage from the second storm. Baldacci estimated damage to utilities and public facilities from the second storm at $100,000 — a figure that does not include insured damage to homes and businesses.
More help is on the way. The United Ways of Maine announced Monday that grant applications from the Maine Storm Relief Fund for nonprofit agencies were available. According to a press release, agencies may call their local United Way offices for copies of the applications. No United Way affiliation is necessary to apply for funding.
Also, the Finance Authority of Maine is offering loan deferments of up to three months to students and families who are having trouble meeting their student loan obligations because of the ice storms.
Meanwhile, a Central Maine Power Co. spokeswoman said Monday that during its peak Saturday afternoon the new storm had brought the number of customers without power from 1,000 to 75,000.
Gail Rice said late Monday afternoon that fewer than 1,000 customers were still out, with more than half in the Brunswick area.
Rice said the company hoped to have the “vast majority” on by midnight Monday.
“The restoration is quicker this time because the affected areas were more densely populated than the ones hit with the first storm,” she said. “With more densely populated areas, each line repair brings back a larger number of customers.”
The latest storm also made work for Bangor Hydro-Electric Co., all of whose customers had been back on line. Spokesman Bill Cohen said late Monday afternoon that 329 customers were without power, and that line workers and tree trimming crews were working in the Corinth, Hampden-Newburgh, Old Town, Hermon Pond, East Greenfield, Milford, Greenbush and Lincoln areas, and on individual outages in the Bangor and northern divisions.
He said repairs would continue into today.
Also today, schools in SAD 46 will be closed because of ice buildup on the schools’ roofs. That district consists of Dexter, Exeter, Garland and Ripley.