News Local/State

FEMA Denies State’s Appeal, Quinn Pledges State Relief


Gov. Pat Quinn is set to visit several Illinois communities hit that were by deadly tornadoes after federal officials denied the state's appeal for disaster assistance.

Quinn's public schedule says he'll visit Washington and Brookport Wednesday and that he'll have an announcement on state relief. 

The Champaign County town of Gifford was also among suffering severe damage.

Dustin Ehler  is a member of the village board in Gifford. One of the tornadoes that struck the state on Nov. 17 did heavy damage to the small town northeast of Urbana.
According to The News-Gazette,  Ehler asked community members during a meeting Tuesday for patience as he and others decided how to spend the money the town has for repairs.  He said Gifford won't have enough to do everything.
Ehler said the town of about 975 people has up to $250,000 worth of damage it had hoped FEMA would cover.

In a press release Wednesday, Quinn said he'll commit $45 million in relief to local governments, including up to $10 million to local governments to rebuild infrastructure, and $4.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development toward housing repair and reconstruction for low-income residents.

Illinois' U.S. Senators also expressed their frustration.

"The federal government can’t be expected to help after every weather event, but the damage I saw in Central Illinois convinced me that we need to be doing more," said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, in a statement.

He and Republican Mark Kirk said a bill introduced by the state’s congressional delegation would fix FEMA’s funding formulas, so towns in downstate Illinois are no longer at a disadvantage when disaster strikes.

With the denial, and no additional state relief, officials in Washingon said total recovery will cost the local government some $26 million.  The EF4 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes, forcing the city to do an enormous amount of debris removal. 

Washington Mayor Gary Manier said the city is exploring every option to pay for that.

"I've said from day one I'm not going to bankrupt this community because of this storm, and we're not going to," he said.  "If we have to end up borrowing the whole amount, we'll get a low-interest loan and we'll pay our bills just like we always have."

In a statement late Tuesday, Quinn said the Federal Emergency Management Agency decision was based on outdated federal rules and not the serious need existing in Illinois communities.

About two dozens tornadoes hit Illinois Nov. 17. More than half a dozen people died and thousands of homes were damaged and destroyed.

Federal aid was given to people and businesses affected by those tornadoes, but FEMA denied the state's request for assistance to local governments, which Quinn says have incurred $6.1 million in storm-related expenses.