How Mainers can get federal money to recover from historic floods

By Zara Norman, Bangor Daily News Staff

AUGUSTA — Federal teams are on the ground to get aid to homeowners, renters and small businesses after storms that battered Maine in December and January with other programs likely coming from the state to fill gaps.

Those hit by the December 17-21 storms that brought major flooding to inland rivers could be eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Federal aid is pending for the Jan. 13 storm that destroyed historic buildings and forced rescues in coastal areas.

The December storms, declared a major disaster by President Joe Biden, caused severe flooding that damaged homes and businesses in 10 Maine counties, left nearly 420,000 without power and four people dead. It caused more than $20 million in public infrastructure damage.

The IRS has also announced that individuals and households that live or have a business in those 10 affected Maine counties — Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington — now have until June 17 to file federal individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

Here’s what you need to know about what assistance is available and how you can get it. The state is also maintaining a one-stop guide to the different programs in play.

Who is eligible for aid?

Homeowners and renters affected by the December storms in Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties are eligible for FEMA assistance to cover temporary housing and home repairs. Low-interest loans of up to $500,000 from the SBA are also available to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate.

If it was your second home that got damaged by the flooding, you’ll likely be ineligible for that federal grant money. But if you lease your second home or operate it “rent-free” for a family member, you may qualify for one of those SBA loans.

If your employment was impacted in any way by the December storms in Androscoggin, Franklin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties — even if you’re self-employed — you can apply for disaster unemployment assistance through the Maine Department of Labor before March 4.

Business owners in those five counties can apply for two types of low-interest loans from the SBA. The first will help businesses of any size, including non-profit organizations, to repair or replace any disaster-damaged property they own. A second type of loan is available for businesses to meet their working capital needs, physical property damage aside.

State, tribal, local government and some nonprofit organizations in Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties are eligible for public assistance for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities.

How do I apply?

There are several ways to apply for federal disaster assistance. You can apply online, at, use FEMA’s mobile app or apply by phone at 800-621-3362 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., any day of the week. Help is available in most languages, but people with speech or hearing issues should dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.

If you’d rather handle business in person, four disaster recovery centers have opened around Maine to help people apply for assistance programs if eligible. 

The centers are in Farmington (University of Maine’s Roberts Learning Center, 270 Main St.), Rumford (Rumford Municipal Building, 145 Congress St.), Skowhegan (Somerset County Emergency Operations Center, 4 County Drive) and Lewiston (Lewiston Armory, 65 Central Ave.). Each center is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. 

The deadline to apply for individual disaster assistance is April 1. Business owners should visit to apply for the SBA’s low-interest loans. The deadline to apply for repairs to physical property damage is April 1, and the deadline to apply for help meeting working capital needs is Oct. 30.

What happens when you apply?

If you apply for assistance through FEMA, you’ll receive a letter in the mail or via email that will let you know your application status and how to proceed. The maximum award is $42,500.

If you’re found ineligible or don’t agree with how much aid you were approved for, you can appeal FEMA’s finding within 60 days of receiving that letter. If you appeal, you’ll need to submit a letter with any documents supporting your claim, like an estimate for home repairs or missing documentation like proof of insurance coverage.

What’s going on at the state level?

The federal relief for the December storm is coming after Gov. Janet Mills requested a federal disaster declaration with individual assistance. The state is still determining whether the January storm along the coast qualifies for similar aid.

Mills and her administration have been helping to coordinate the federal response as well as mapping out a relief agenda at the state level that is not yet final. The governor is proposing $50 million for a Maine Department of Transportation fund for infrastructure from working waterfronts to roads and culverts.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants another $50 million set aside for small businesses hit by both the December and January storms. The measure drew wide support at a legislative hearing on Tuesday from business groups and others who generally envision it working hand in glove with the governor’s plan, but the Legislature will need to iron out funding.

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