AUGUSTA — On Wednesday, the Legislature passed a bill from Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, that clears a path for Maine municipalities to access federal funds and rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. LD 1507, An Act To Establish a Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program and Allocation sets up an account for the state to receive and disburse federal funds for municipalities from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) aid package.
“Maine towns and cities have been hit hard by the pandemic. I’ve heard from local officials all across northern Aroostook County about the never-ending challenges of this past year. With hope on the horizon as more Mainers get vaccinated and cases stabilize, these funds will support our municipalities as they work to rebuild local communities and economies,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “The Maine Legislature will not stand in the way of local economic recovery. I’m glad we could pass this bill and am hopeful that Maine municipalities will get the funds they need in no time.”
The American Rescue Plan allocated funds to each Maine municipality based on population. Smaller municipalities cannot access these essential funds without this account. LD 1507 allows the state to efficiently distribute federal funds from the American Recovery Plan Act to municipalities when they are released in May.
“It’s great to see lawmakers act swiftly in a bipartisan way to get Maine towns the aid they need to recover,” said Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford. “That’s what Maine people elected us to do.”
Towns will receive from thousands to over a million dollars over a two year period, with a total of $115.2 million coming into Maine for pandemic recovery from the Biden administration. Maine’s largest cities and towns will receive a total of $118 million directly. The 16 counties are in line for $261 million.
“From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine lawmakers have been on the ground in our communities working with local officials trying to respond to this crisis, support small businesses and best serve the people we are elected to represent. We intimately know the difficulties many municipal governments have experienced and the need for federal funds to support our schools, first responders and property tax owners amid declining revenues,” said Sen. Breen. “With federal funds on the way, this bill provides a mechanism to ensure Maine municipalities can access these funds without any unnecessary hurdles or delays.”
The United States Treasury Department has issued guidelines for what kinds of pandemic relief projects can receive this funding. Additional guidance from the US Department of Treasury is forthcoming, but it is not expected until the middle of May.
“This is the first in a series of funding coming into Maine from the American Rescue Plan and the dollars will go directly to local municipalities. Every town in Maine will receive funds which will result in over $611 million going out into our communities,” said Rep. Teresa S. Pierce of House District 44. “This is an exciting moment in Maine’s history because the funds can be a transformational opportunity for Maine to invest in areas we know we must tackle.”
Municipal budgets passed as of January 27, 2020 and census data will be used to determine funding levels for each municipality. Allocations are capped at 75% of that budget. Additional information, including estimates for funding available to each town is here.
LD 1507 will now go to the governor’s desk. Gov. Janet Mills has 10 days upon receiving legislation to sign a bill into law, allow it to become law without her signature, or veto it. The emergency measure would take effect immediately upon becoming law.