Elected officials in Maine are considering proposals that would allocate millions of dollars in response to destruction caused by the severe weather events that have swept through the state in recent months.
At the end of January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers co-sponsored a bill allocating $50 million to a program that would provide relief to small businesses throughout the state were affected by these “severe weather-related events.”
On Friday, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced her intention to introduce legislation distributing $50 million from the “Rainy Day Fund” to the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund in order to “help communities rebuild infrastructure and enhance climate resiliency.”
$50 Million for the Small Business Weather Emergency Relief Program
LD 2191 — An Act to Provide Relief to Small Businesses Affected by Severe Weather-related Events — was sponsored by Sen. Craig Hickman (D-Kennebec) and introduced on January 25, 2024.
Receiving bipartisan support, this bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Daniel Shagoury (D-Hallowell), Sen. Jackson, Sen. Lisa Keim (R-Oxford), Sen. Marianne Moore (R-Washington), Sen. Cameron Reny (D-Lincoln), Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor), Rep. Rachel A. Henderson (R-Rumford), Rep. Karen L. Montell (D-Gardiner), and Rep. Bruce A. White (D-Waterville).
To distribute relief payments to small businesses, the bill would establish the Small Business Weather Emergency Relief Program under the Department of Economic and Community Development.
The Department would be required to adopt rules necessary to carry out the program — such as eligibility requirements application processes — by March 30, 2024.
As it is currently written, this bill would distribute $50 million from the General Fund to the Program for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
A public hearing for LD 2191 is scheduled for Tuesday, February 13 at 1pm in Room 206 of the Cross Building in Augusta.
The hearing can be streamed live online here.
$50 Million for the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund
Also in response to the destructive storms that Maine has seen in recent months, Gov. Mills’ declared that she intends to introduce legislation transferring $50 million from the “Rainy Day Fund” to the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund.
“I propose taking from the Rainy Day Fund to respond to some pretty rainy days we’ve had and some rainy days ahead,” Mills said, during her two-part State of State Address on Jan. 30
According to a Friday press release, Mills will be introducing the proposition to the Legislature in a standalone bill sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), as opposed to including it as part of her upcoming supplemental budget.
“Communities hard hit by the recent storms are in need of help, and we want to deliver that help as soon as possible,” Mills said in a statement. “By considering this proposal apart from the supplemental budget, I hope we can more quickly move it through the Legislature and, ultimately, distribute these vital funds to Maine communities with urgent needs faster.”
Created in 2021, the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund was first introduced as part of Mills’ effort to “empower communities in the fight against climate change.”
According to a press release from December of 2021, the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund was “a $20 million program through the Maine Department of Transportation that will provide grants to municipalities, tribal governments, and others to improve stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater infrastructure from flooding, rising sea levels, and extreme weather.”
At the time, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) Bruce Van Note said that the Fund would “help us make strategic investments in projects designed to address climate effects on critical infrastructure.“
“Our goal is to work in partnership with local communities and tribes to get this money where it’s needed as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Van Note said. “These timely investments will support public safety, protect our natural resources, and enhance our quality of life.”
In her Friday press release, Mills noted that she expects the legislation authorizing the Fund’s $50 million allotment to be introduced in the coming days, followed shortly thereafter by her supplemental budget.