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Quinn To Challenge FEMA Denial Of Tornado Relief Aid

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Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to reporters on Feb. 19, 2012, about his plan to ask many state agencies to cut their budgets by at least 9 percent when he presents annual budget address. (Credit: CBS)

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to reporters on Feb. 19, 2012, about his plan to ask many state agencies to cut their budgets by at least 9 percent when he presents annual budget address. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn says he will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s denial of assistance to homeowners affected by the southern Illinois tornado.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports, Quinn says he has already informed U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano of his decision.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports

Quinn says Illinois is already doing everything it can to help communities hit by tornadic storms on Feb. 29, including the town of Harrisburg. Seven residents of the town died, and 98 homes were destroyed, by a tornado there.

Quinn said some assistance needed by residents is available only through a federal disaster declaration. He had sought a federal major disaster declaration for the state from the federal government, and assistance for downstate Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson counties.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency says there is enough private insurance and other resources in Illinois to handle the situation.

In a letter to Quinn on Saturday announcing its decision, said: “Based on our review of all the information available, it has been determined that the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies.”

Quinn sharply criticized the decision the following day.

“After personally surveying the damage and talking to many residents who lost their homes, I firmly believe federal assistance is crucial to help them begin the recovery process,” Quinn said Sunday in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other lawmakers plan to meet with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in Washington Wednesday to challenge the decision by the agency.

Durbin spokeswoman Christina Angarola says the senator wants to know how the decision was made and will ask Fugate to reconsider “some elements.” She didn’t say what those were.

FEMA spokesman Mark Peterson says the agency does not put a monetary value on homeowners’ losses, but private insurance and other state resources are enough to recover without FEMA help.

He says the agency is determining now whether the state qualifies for public assistance to offset taxpayer expenses – which requires at least $17 million statewide in expenses and damages.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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