Gore Announces New Aid To Ice-Ravaged Maine
AUGUSTA, Maine (AllPolitics, Jan. 15) -- Vice President Al Gore announced federal aid programs for ice-ravaged Maine today and said it was a tribute to the state's people that they still are able to laugh during Maine's worst natural disaster.
During a meeting with state officials and leaders of volunteer groups, Gore said the Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $28 million and the Small Business Administration will make low-interest loans available.
In a humorous moment, Gore granted on the spot the governor's request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency programs already in place be expanded to include grants of up to $400 to individuals and families hurt by six days without electrical power. Additional counties in northern Maine also were declared federal disaster areas, making them eligible for aid.
David Flanigan of Central Maine Power Co. called the ice storm, which is lingering as temperature remain well below freezing, "the worst natural disaster in the history of the state."
He said 80 percent of the people of Maine -- 800,000 to 900,000 people -- were without power at the worst moment of the outages. Gov. Angus King said 200,000 people were still without power today.
Flanigan said the power company has 2,500 broken utility poles and 1,000 of 18,000 miles of power lines are destroyed. They will have to be replaced completely, he said.
The company has spent $6 million on tools and equipment alone, he said.
The latest U.S. aid to the state was the arrival around noon of power trucks from the Carolinas aboard military aircraft.
Gore was continuing his tour of the state this afternoon. He told the group in Augusta that the disaster was "the perfect storm to take out the power system of an entire state."
In a related development, President Bill Clinton also has issued a disaster declaration for New Hampshire because of the severe winter storms. Clinton has ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery work.
Clinton's order makes the following counties eligible for federal aid: Belknap, Carroll, Cheshire, Coos, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Strafford and Sullivan.