Facing millions of dollars in damage from a storm just before Christmas, Maine is now a big step closer to a major disaster declaration, which could mean money for repairs.
The storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Mainers, some of whom were left in the dark for days.
The state believes it has met its $2.4 million threshold in damage needed to move the federal funding forward, but the total amount is in the process of being verified by FEMA, officials said. This is specifically for damages to property that municipalities would be responsible for repairing, such as roads, culverts or town facilities.
When there’s a major disaster declaration, it opens up money from FEMA to reimburse towns and cities.
While there’s no guarantee that will happen, it would make a big difference for people in Camp Ellis.
“The waves were hitting the second-floor bedroom windows,” Camp Ellis property owner Bernice Kehoe said.
Bernice and Joe Kehoe were inside when the worst of the storm rocked Camp Ellis.
“I lost a big chunk of land and all my sea grass, and on the other side of the house, a lot of the sand over here, we lost,” Joe Kehoe said.
Roads were washed out and docks were wrecked by the waves.
“I watched them move jersey barriers like they were sponges,” Joe Kehoe said.
York County is one of seven counties that officials believe reached their own threshold in municipal damages to things like bridges, town facilities and certain utilities.
“Each county in Maine must meet their threshold before they can be considered for a declaration,” Vanessa Corson of the Maine Emergency Management Agency said.
Federal officials have to come see some of the sites in person to set their own price tag on the repairs.
That started Monday.
“If FEMA validates those damage reports, it means the Governor will submit a Major Disaster Declaration request to the President,” Corson said.
That step is time sensitive.
The submission needs to happen by January 23, just two weeks away.
“We saw a fair bit of damage,” Cumberland County Emergency Management Director Michael Durkin said. “This seems to be along the same lines of the ice storm of 2018.”
Cumberland County is looking at about $1.8 million in repairs. That number keeps going up as crews get to work. Even if the county is included in a declaration, it could take some time before communities see any money from FEMA.
“For a lot of these towns, if they put in $100,000 worth of damage, it could be months and months before they get reimbursed for any of those costs,” Durkin said.
The last time the state received a Major Disaster Declaration was for a 2021 storm.
If you’re facing any kind of significant property damage and costs, state officials say to contact your local emergency management office. They may be able to find you some help or the next steps to take.