Stephen Flynn in Bangor Daily News: Untapped Federal Funds Could Help Fill Gap in Maine Virus Economic Plan
by Lori Valigra
Maine could benefit from a potentially rich trove of unused federal funds that have not yet factored into state discussions on rebuilding an economy hammered by the coronavirus.
The economic recovery committee convened by Gov. Janet Mills is set to submit its first report on July 15 asking the Democratic governor to dole out most of the $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act pandemic stimulus money the state has already received, though the panel has said the sum does not come close to matching the need.
The untapped money sources were identified in a draft report that the Federal Emergency Management Agency submitted to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and the Maine Emergency Management Agency last week.
FEMA collaborated with university researchers to collect information on Maine’s top needs to build a sustainable economy, including helping fisheries and building out broadband infrastructure. It then matched those needs with the myriad federal agencies with available funding.
State agencies are currently reviewing the recommendations. It will be up to the state to apply for any of the recommended aid, which would come from funds not yet used from the $2.1 trillion CARES Act, money that the 108 federal agencies have in their own budgets and philanthropic funding, according to a FEMA spokesperson.
FEMA would not directly dole out the funding, but would match state needs with relevant federal agencies. The effort is part of FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework, which kicked in after President Donald Trump in April declared a disaster in all 50 states because of the pandemic.
“The federal government hasn’t made it easy — though it’s tried — to access these grants and programs,” said Stephen Flynn, founding director of Northeastern University’s Global Resilience Institute, which was one of the institutions that collected data on what states need.