This week President Joe Biden approved the State of Maine’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the storm and flooding that took place December 17-21, 2023. The disaster declaration applies to 10 counties that experienced extensive flooding, power outages, and property damage in that storm.
Homeowners with very low incomes in these counties are now eligible for grants and loans through USDA Rural Development’s “504 Home Repair” pilot program. The affected counties are Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington.
“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are working hard to find solutions to help people impacted by natural disasters in rural areas,” USDA Rural Development State Director Rhiannon Hampson said. “Mainers deserve the resources to rebuild their homes and lives after storms and floods. Whether you’re a senior living in retirement or a young family getting started, if your home was damaged in this recent natural disaster, the 504 Home Repair pilot program may be able to help. It includes manufactured housing and offers reimbursements for emergency repairs that were already completed. Flexibilities such as these mean Rural Development can help even more low-income Mainers enjoy secure homes.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Maine in person on January 8. At the time he viewed some of the storm damage from December and met with impacted residents, businesses, and leaders. The visit reflected USDA’s commitment to continue to support rural recovery from recent and future disasters across the country. Developing new programs and flexibilities is one of USDA’s strategies to help impacted communities build back stronger and combat the effects of climate change.
USDA Rural Development’s long-standing Section 504 Home Repair program is also known as the Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grantsprogram. It was designed to help eligible homeowners make critical home repairs. Through a pilot program launched in 2023, more people are eligible to apply for the funds following certain disasters, and the funding may be used in new ways. Residents of the ten Maine counties included in the disaster declaration for the December storm can expect:
- Expanded eligibility: Homeowners 18 and older can apply for disaster-related grants and loans.
- Increased grant limit: The maximum grant available increased from $10,000 to $40,675.
- The program offers home repair loans for up to 20 years at 1% interest.
- Debt refinancing and reimbursement allowed: Reimbursement and refinancing may be possible for costs incurred as a result of the natural disaster.
- Mobile or manufactured home allowances: Funding may be used towards the cost of moving a unit from one site to another.
- Occupancy flexibility: An applicant may be eligible even if they do not currently occupy the home if they were temporarily displaced by the storm damage and will occupy it within 12 months.
The flexibilities of the pilot program are available to homeowners with very low income in eligible rural areas damaged during specific storms. In Maine, the program is available for homes damaged in presidentially declared disasters that occurred since July 18, 2022. (Read more at this link: http://tinyurl.com/3y3kmc3r)
Funds may also be available for future presidentially declared disasters through July 2025. For more information about eligibility or how to apply, contact your local USDA RD Single Family Housing office (call 207-990-9100 or email SFHMaine@USDA.gov) or visit www.rd.usda.gov/me.