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Federal assistance denied for tornado-stricken counties

Published: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Morris Daily Herald file photo)
Volunteers discard debris in Diamond Estates subdivision after the tornado struck Diamond on Nov. 17. Hundreds of homeowners, family, friends and volunteers helped each other clean up after the tornado tore through the area.

Local officials expressed dismay Thursday after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state of Illinois’ request for federal assistance to help local governments in nine counties recover expenses related to November’s deadly tornadoes.

“I’m not surprised, but it’s disappointing,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said.

Dozens of tornadoes tore through Illinois on Nov. 17. An EF2 tornado hit Coal City and Diamond, with winds faster than 120 mph. More than 200 structures in those communities sustained damage, and four people were injured, including three who were hospitalized.

Severson said at least two houses in Grundy County were completely destroyed.

The federal government did declare 15 counties – including Grundy and Will counties – federal disaster areas, which provided aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by the storms.

The aid that has been denied would have provided additional funding.

On Dec. 19, Gov. Pat Quinn requested federal aid for nine counties, including Grundy, Champaign, Douglas, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford.

That request included documentation of tornado-related expenses, such as emergency protective measures, debris removal and repair or replacement of government-owned facilities incurred by the nine counties and the state.

Those costs, which totaled more than $6.1 million, were compiled by a joint damage assessment conducted by FEMA and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency in early December. That total is short of the federal threshold for Illinois of $17.8 million, which is based on the state’s population multiplied by $1.35.

Quinn announced Thursday that the state will appeal the decision within the next 30 days.

“While we appreciate FEMA’s partnership in helping individuals and businesses recover, I’m disappointed in this decision,” Quinn said in a news release. “My administration will immediately work to develop a strong appeal that demonstrates how much this assistance is needed. The state of Illinois will continue doing everything necessary to help our hardest hit communities rebuild and recover from these historic tornadoes.”

Patti Thompson, communications manager with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said her agency with be working with local communities hit by the tornadoes to determine if more information is needed as part of the appeal.

“We want to submit as much additional information as possible,” she said.

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