Following federal denial of disaster assistance, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on March 5 announced a $45 million state relief package to help Illinois local governments recover from the deadly November tornadoes. This assistance was assembled at the Governor’s direction following the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denial of the state’s appeal for federal disaster assistance for local governments.
“Thank you for stepping up and helping us during our time of need,” Barr told the state government officials who came with Quinn to announce the details about the state’s comprehensive financial recovery package.
Barr said Brookport will hold community clean-up weekends that will focus on personal propery and city property clean up. He reported the town’s first stick built home is now being constructed two blocks from the church and the city has seen one modular home come in.
“I don’t want anyone to forget what we’ve been through,” said Barr, pointing out the city has spent a lot of money following the tornado - “a lot of money the city hasn’t had,” he said, calling the $45 million relief package, “amazing relief to this town.”
According to Barr, the town has lost 47 residents completely. “We need to bring it back to where it was,” he said noting, Brookport is one of very few southern Illinois towns that have a full Fourth of July celebration, going on to say this year there will be full celebration complete with a parade, activities and a Brookport High School alumni reunion. Barr invited everybody back to Brookport for the celebration to see what the town has done between now and fourth of July. “You will be impressed.”
Quinn opened the press conference by recalling how the deadly November tornadoes had taken a total of eight lives, with three of them being from Massac County and he said it is important for the state to, “be there to help our neighbors. Rebuild and recover. That’s what Illinois does, all the time,” he said, also calling FEMA’s formula unfair to a big state like Illinois with big cities and rural areas.
The relief package will provide much-needed aid for impacted municipalities, including Washington, Brookport, Gifford, New Minden, Diamond, Coal City and East Peoria. All local governments in the nine counties impacted by the historic tornadoes will be eligible for assistance. The counties are: Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford.
The state’s multi-agency relief package for local governments includes assistance from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA).
DCEO will provide up to $19.1 million in state and federal funds to be used toward disaster recovery. These commitments include:
• Up to $10 million in state funds through Illinois Department of Transportation, to local governments to rebuild tornado-damaged infrastructure.
• Approximately $4.5 million of the agency’s Community Development Assistance Program allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be directed toward housing repair and reconstruction for low-income residents.
• An additional $3.6 million is expected from HUD this summer to address unmet housing needs from communities impacted by last spring’s flooding or November’s tornadoes.
• The DCEO Office of Employment and Training will supply up to $1 million in Rapid Response funding which will provide paid work experience to individuals to assist with disaster cleanup and recovery efforts - $138,875 of these funds are already being used for this purpose in Brookport.
• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization funds are available to eligible recipients for a variety of storm-related issues including temporary shelter, transportation, utility reconnection, heating and air conditioning replacement, coats and blankets, insulation repair, generators, re-weatherization of damaged homes and technical assistance. The amount of funding available will depend on the number of eligible LIHEAP and weatherization households seeking assistance.
IDOT will provide up to $10 million for communities to repair storm-damaged infrastructure. IDOT continues to work with communities to identify eligible transportation infrastructure needs.
IFA, the state’s infrastructure bank, will immediately make available up to $4.5 million in below-market rate loans to finance repairs constituting capital expenditures to publicly owned and operated facilities that sustained damage in the tornadoes, not otherwise covered by insurance. Due to the legal and credit requirements of each individual project, the IFA will work through the Governor’s Response Team with individual local governments in the tornado-ravaged communities.
IEMA will provide $3.55 million to help municipalities pay for costs already incurred for items such as debris removal, emergency protective measures and overtime payments. This assistance comes from state General Revenue Funds.
IEPA will set aside up to $5.35 million in low-interest loans through the Illinois Clean Water Initiative to repair damaged water systems in impacted communities.
IHDA will provide $2.5 million in emergency rehabilitation assistance to approximately 50 low-income households affected by the severe storms. Eligible homeowners will receive up to $40,000 in assistance to pay insurance deductibles or provide home repairs. The assistance comes from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Also at the press conference was Larry Bush, representing the McCormick Foundation, who also announced the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, a local charity geared to assist with local disasters, would also be able to provide $230,000 for Brookport to use along with other state money to aid the rebuilding efforts. Bush said individuals may still donate money for the Brookport tornado by visiting www.sicf.org.
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The Governor recently addressed the National Journal’s Disaster Forum in Washington, D.C. to push for needed changes to the FEMA disaster aid criteria. The Governor is working with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Illinois’ congressional delegation to pass legislation that would give FEMA a clearer, more substantive formula when evaluating natural disasters. It will modify a flawed system that places small and rural communities in highly populated states at a disadvantage in the federal disaster declaration process. The bill assigns a specific weight to each of the factors already used by FEMA and adds other economic factors for the agency to consider when determining whether or not an area should receive federal assistance.
“FEMA has gotten it wrong in Illinois not once but twice,” Senator Durbin said. “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. Senator Kirk and I have a bill-introduced in the House by members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation-that would fix FEMA’s funding formulas so communities in downstate Illinois are no longer at a disadvantage when disaster strikes. I am encouraged by Governor Quinn’s commitment today to help make these communities whole again and will be working with my colleagues to advance the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act and identify any additional federal funding opportunities.”
Shortly after the deadly storms on Nov. 17, 2013, Governor Quinn surveyed the damaged areas and activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the deployment of state resources and personnel in support of local response and recovery efforts. While federal assistance for local governments has been denied, just nine days after the storms the Governor successfully secured federal aid for families and businesses in 15 counties, which has topped $23.5 million, including FEMA grants of more than $2.6 million and $21 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
To watch the entire press conference, individuals may visit the Planet’s You Tube channel at www.youtube.com/user/themetropolisplanet.