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Obama declares major disaster in Grundy County

Means to receive federal aid also includes La Salle, Will

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 9:01 a.m. CDT

President Barack Obama has approved Gov. Pat Quinn’s request for federal assistance to help those affected by the April 18 flood, including Grundy County residents and businesses.

On Thursday, Quinn had requested the president declare 11 Illinois counties major disaster areas due to the damage they received from heavy rain and flooding last month. Counties included in the request with Grundy were Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Fulton, Kane, Kendall, Lake, La Salle, McHenry and Will.

On Friday night, Quinn announced his wish was granted.

“I thank President Obama for his fast and responsive approval of our request for federal assistance to help families across Illinois recover from this devastating flood,” Governor Quinn said in a press release. “This quick action will help speed relief to the people of Illinois who suffered flood damages and help them begin rebuilding their lives.”

Now residents of Grundy and the other counties who were affected by the flooding will be eligible to apply for grants and low-interest federal loans to help them recover.

On Monday, Jim Lutz, Grundy County Emergency Management Agency director, was working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to find FEMA a location in the county to set up an office to aid the public with the paperwork required to apply for the financial assistance.

The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District has offered space in its Station 2, said Chief Tracey Steffes. Lutz said a location in Minooka has also been offered.

Monday afternoon, Lutz said FEMA has yet to make a decision on where it will be setting up its temporary Grundy office.

“This is clearly a step in the right direction in order to try and make people whole again after this disaster,” said Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris.

Five damage assessment teams including people with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration and local officials have documented damage for more than 3,500 homes since April 29.

In the 11 counties, 41 homes were destroyed, 761 had major damage, and 2,715 other homes were damaged in some lesser way. In addition, nearly 80 businesses were damaged. Affected businesses in the counties will be eligible to apply for low-interest SBA loans.

Lutz said last week he estimates the county received $10 million to $13 million in damage. Morris Hospital alone, which was forced to evacuate patients and greatly reduce available services in the aftermath of the flooding, sustained about $2.5 million in damages.

Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said the news of the president’s declaration was tremendous.

“Not only for the home owners, but hopefully it will benefit the businesses, the hospital and the (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) with the aqueduct to see if they can get federal assistance to help rebuild that structure to get the canal back and the towpath reconnected,” he said.

Morris’ historic aqueduct that carries the I & M Canal over Nettle Creek collapsed during the flood.

To apply for federal funding, call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or registration can be done online at www.disasterassistance.gov.

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