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Officials bemoan denial of federal assistance after Illinois flooding

 

Illinois Business Journal news services

State and federal officials are expressing disappointment after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Gov. Bruce Rauner’s request for federal disaster assistance for 21 counties severely impacted by recent flooding.

“It’s disappointing that time and time again FEMA denies our small and rural communities fair consideration when determining the need for disaster assistance,” said Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. “I had hoped FEMA would have taken the language we passed unanimously in the House into consideration during the evaluation process but it’s clear now that a change in law is needed to help our communities in downstate Illinois get the fair consideration they deserve. As storm season in Illinois approaches, I hope the Senate passes this legislation quickly before another major disaster strikes and our communities are left without any federal assistance.”

Although Illinois’ assessed damages were $15 million in total, just shy of FEMA’s $18.1 million population-based threshold, FEMA continues to have discretion under the law to give greater weight to other factors when determining the need for federal assistance. Davis fought to include language in H.R. 1471, FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, which passed the House unanimously last week, requiring FEMA to give greater consideration to severe localized impact when determining the need for public disaster assistance.

The state was notified Thursday that its request for federal assistance to help people, businesses and local governments in several Illinois counties recover from flooding has been denied. In a letter notifying the state of the denial, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate said the damage from the floods and severe storms “was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies.”

On Feb. 26 the state submitted a request for two types of federal assistance: Individual Assistance to help people and businesses recover and Public Assistance to provide reimbursement to local governments for some of their disaster-related expenses. Both forms of federal assistance were denied.

“This is yet another example of how the federal government’s population-based threshold for determining assistance works against states with large metropolitan areas,” said James K. Joseph, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “We will be reaching out to our emergency management partners in the affected counties to see if there is any additional information that would support an appeal of the denial of either type of assistance.”

Counties included in the state’s request for federal assistance for people and businesses were Alexander, Christian, Clinton, Douglas, Iroquois, Jersey, Madison, Randolph, Sangamon and St. Clair. Counties included in the state’s request for federal assistance for local governments were Alexander, Bureau, Calhoun, Cass, Cumberland, Jackson, Jersey, Madison, Menard, Monroe, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Randolph, St. Clair and Vermilion.

 

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