Mills outlines plan to divvy up $119 million in relief funds among Maine communities

Maine Gov. Janet Mills has rolled out a program to distribute more than $119 million in federal pandemic relief funds to cities and towns.

Local governments will get a share of the American Rescue Plan Act funds based on their population and not to exceed 75% of their most recent municipal budget.

Initially, about $60 million will be available for cities and towns, with the remainder of the money to be available next year, according to the Mills administration.

Mills said she intends to work with municipal leaders “to deploy these resources and put them to work improving the lives and livelihoods of Maine people.”

“The American Rescue Plan makes historic investments in our communities that will help us recover from the pandemic and build a stronger, brighter future for our state and our people,” Mills said in a statement. “The unprecedented federal funding we will distribute through this new program will help towns and cities across Maine rebuild infrastructure, bolster services, and make a real difference in the lives of their citizens.”

The state Department of Administrative and Financial Services has created an online portal for local governments to submit their requests for a slice of the funding.

Revenue Commissioner Kirsten Figueroa said the online application system will “keep the process as simple as possible” and allow cities and towns “to have these crucial funds in hand quickly so they can be put to use immediately on behalf of local residents.”

Catherine Conlow, executive director of the Maine Municipal Association, said local governments are anxious to put the “unprecedented federal funding” to work.

“With the right partnerships in place, municipalities will be able to invest these one-time funds strategically towards community goals with projects that increase the affordable housing stock, address the impacts of climate change, improve infrastructure, and expand access to broadband,” she said. “Investments that will benefit the residents of Maine for decades.”

Maine expects to get more than $1.1 billion in direct federal funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a pandemic relief package signed by President Joe Biden in March.

Under a plan signed by Mills in June, at least $150 million has been earmarked for expanding broadband internet access to Maine’s largely rural population.

The plan also devotes $80 million for loans and grants to help pandemic-impacted businesses and will pump $80 million into the state’s unemployment system.

Other spending includes $50 million for drinking and wastewater upgrades and $50 million for state park improvements.

Overall, Maine has received more than $4.5 billion from the ARPA relief package.

This article was originally posted on Mills outlines plan to divvy up $119 million in relief funds among Maine communities

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