News Local/State

Reps. Shimkus, Davis Promote FEMA Aid Measure

Damage from a tornado that struck Gifford, Ill. on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

Damage from a tornado that struck Gifford, Ill. on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (Sean Powers/WILL)

After the Champaign County town of Gifford was hit by a tornado in 2013, many of its homeowners and businesses received federal disaster aid. But Gifford’s local government did not, because it didn’t qualify under the aid formula used by FEMA.

Gifford isn’t alone -  Washington, Harrisburg, Ridgway and New Minden were also hit by recent tornadoes, but refused federal aid.

Republican Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville says Illinois’ heavy population concentration in the Chicago area causes the FEMA formula to miss small downstate towns, even when they’re sorely in need of help.

"And they’re small, rural and they’re poor." he said.  "And so any assistance they can give with a disaster declaration, helping to cover the cost of overtime, fuel cost for hauling away debris and the like is helpful to a small community."

Shimkus is co-sponsoring Taylorville Republican Congressman Rodney Davis’ bill filed last month to change the aid formula.  

The two were scheduled to visit Gifford Monday afternoon to publicize the measure. There’s also a Senate version sponsored by Democrat Dick Durbin, and Shimkus hopes the bill’s bipartisan support will improve its chances of passage.  

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have been assigned to committees where they’re awaiting action. A similar measure failed to win approval in the last Congress.