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Relief fund to offer grants to Maine businesses impacted by flooding, power outages

Gov. Janet Mills speaks at Cushnoc Brewing Co. in downtown Augusta during a Jan. 2, 2024, press conference announcing a new relief program for businesses impacted by the December 2023 flooding and power outages.
Kevin Miller
/
Maine Public
Gov. Janet Mills speaks at Cushnoc Brewing Co. in downtown Augusta during a Jan. 2, 2024, press conference announcing a new relief program for businesses impacted by the Dec. 2023 flooding and power outages.

A special fund is being established to offer grants to small businesses that were affected by last month's severe flooding and windstorm.

The Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association announced Tuesday that the relief fund will offer grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to help businesses recover from the storm. The groups expect the Maine Business Relief Fund begin accepting applications for grants by Jan, 4 and they are asking other businesses or individuals to make tax-deductible donations to the fund.

Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said the timing of the Dec. 18 storm resulted in many businesses losing inventory, suffering equipment damage and losing sales one week before Christmas.

"It was important for our industries to pull together to try to help directly and quickly," Picard said. "The goal of the Maine Business Relief Fund is to provide some direct financial relief to help businesses clean up, restock and get back on their feet quickly."

Many riverfront downtown areas along the Kennebec, Androscoggin and other rivers experienced some of the most severe flooding in decades following the storm. Some areas received more than 6 inches of rain while others were buffeted by wind gusts exceeding 70 mph. Hundreds of thousands of Maine residents and businesses were without power at the peak of the storm and immediately afterward.

Speaking inside the restaurant of Cushnoc Brewing — one of multiple downtown Augusta businesses affected by the flooding — Gov. Janet Mills said her administration supports the creation of the new grant program and plans to contribute $10,000 from her office's contingency fund. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency also arrived in Maine this week to assess damage from the storm, which is a precursor to a federal disaster declaration that would make areas eligible for additional federal assistance.

"My administration will keep doing all we can to support efforts like these that will help businesses and individuals in our communities and help our state recover from last month's horrific storm," Mills said.

Organizers say an anonymous donor has offered to match $250,000 in donations to the new fund. More information about the program is available online at www.MaineBusinessReliefFund.com.