President Joe Biden participates in a briefing on the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, at FEMA headquarters, Monday, May 24, 2021, in Washington. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is set to receive more than $1.5 million in federal funds to cover the use of non-congregate shelters in Portland and South Portland during the pandemic.

The grant — funded through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program — is meant to cover the cost of sheltering the cities’ high-risk population during the early onset of the pandemic, the agency announced Thursday.

Specifically, the $1,585,092 grant will cover non-congregate shelters — hotels and motels — which include the Budget Inn, Comfort Inn Airport, Days Inn Airport/Maine Mall, Howard Johnson and Quality Inn & Suites in South Portland and Motel 6 in Portland.

Non-congregate shelters were used across the country during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to house people — and at times families — away from others for greater social distancing, according to FEMA.

In Bangor, the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road was used as shelter for the city’s homeless population so they could remain socially distanced from others.

In February, President Joe Biden authorized an increase in the number of federal dollars available for all major disaster declarations from 2020 or 2021 as a result of COVID-19. This allowed FEMA to cover 100 percent of the costs of federal assistance when applicable. Previously the agency covered only 75 percent, FEMA said.

This means all qualified costs to Portland or South Portlands’ non-congregate housing will be fully covered by federal funds.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA and the State of Maine have provided much-needed resources for everyone — especially to the most vulnerable,” Paul Ford, acting region one administrator and federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said. “Our agency is thankful the state took these essential actions to save lives.”

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...