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Morton Times-News - Morton, IL
  • Illinois will appeal FEMA decision to deny tornado assistance

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  • PEORIA — Gov. Pat Quinn will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision Thursday to deny assistance governmental bodies in the wake of the Nov. 17 tornadoes that struck Tazewell and Woodford counties.
    A news release from the governor’s office confirmed the state intends to appeal the decision to deny assistance to municipalities affected by the storm system that claimed two lives and contributed to the death of a third person and damaged more than 1,000 homes in Washington alone.
    Damage was assessed from Dec. 2 to Dec. 6 and an application was sent by the state of Illinois to the federal government asking for public assistance in effected communities.
    Washington Mayor Gary Manier said in the month that’s passed since that assessment, the perception of damage has only escalated.
    “Unfortunately, sometimes you have to turn these applications in earlier than before you’ve done due diligence to the entire process and know what your numbers really are,” Manier said Thursday. “Debris removal is probably one of the biggest as far as man-hours and taking debris to the landfill. Everything comes at a cost.
    “There’s a lot of unknown costs. We’ve got a little bit better understanding of what we’re going to be facing in the spring, in the next six months or even a year or two out. … It’s an ongoing learning experience for all of us.”
    The preliminary damage assessment conducted jointly by federal and state emergency management agencies was $6.1 million in costs in nine counties affected by the storms, far short of the threshold for federal assistance in Illinois of $17.8 million, but an appeal could include costs that weren’t on the original application.
    “While we were short of the threshold, we still thought it was important that they knew that the impact on some of the counties went far beyond their capacity to recover quickly without help,” said Patti Thompson, public information officer for the Illinois Disaster Management Agency.
    That threshold, calculated by multiplying the state’s population by $1.35, can unfairly skew damage assessments against a geographically large state with a major urban center such as Illinois, Quinn’s news release states.
    The request also noted extreme circumstances of the storms to emphasize the need for federal assistance.
    “We don’t usually have tornadoes in the middle of November, and then followed up with the snow and ice that we’ve had the past couple of weeks,” Thompson said. “Some of these counties (such as Tazewell and Woodford counties) were affected by the floods that we had just this past April.”
    Those factors, she said, could help convince emergency management officials at the federal level that public assistance is necessary as state officials try to strengthen the case for the FEMA appeal.
    Page 2 of 2 - The denial of public assistance will not affect the claims of individuals for federal disaster relief funds. Thursday’s decision affects municipalities such as Washington, Pekin and East Peoria in their effort to receive governmental assistance for damage to infrastructure repairs and cleanup.
    “The residents have already received assistance. That’s considered as what FEMA refers to as the individual assistance program. This is what they consider the public assistance program, and that’s to governmental bodies like cities, counties and road districts,” Thompson said.
    U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk expressed their disappointment in FEMA’s decision.
    “This was some of the worst storm damage I have ever seen,” said Durbin, a Democrat, in a news release.
    Republican Kirk echoed his sentiments, saying he was “extremely disappointed” in FEMA’s decision.
    U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, also released a statement expressing his dissatisfaction.
    “Ultimately this decision falls on the president as to whether or not he is willing to help out those communities and their residents of the state he calls home,” the statement said in part.
    The state has 30 days to appeal FEMA’s decision.
    Laura Nightengale can be reached at 686-3181 or lnightengale@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauranight.

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