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Congressman: FEMA ‘Got Everything Wrong’ In Denying Tornado Aid

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Extensive damage after an EF-4 tornado hit Harrisburg, Ill. (Credit: Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

Extensive damage after an EF-4 tornado hit Harrisburg, Ill. (Credit: Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — A downstate congressman says the federal government “got everything wrong” by denying benefits to tornado-ravaged Harrisburg and surrounding areas.

The state quickly applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help after an EF-4 tornado tore through Southern Illinois on Feb. 29, killing seven. Help was denied, which baffled U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Urbana).

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

“They acted with incomplete facts,” he says. “To take the position that there is disqualification based on the factors they set forth, and based on the actuality of the incident, this flies in the face of reality.”

FEMA denied assistance as it felt a state declaration, coupled with charitable donations and private insurance, would suffice. Gov. Pat Quinn was also furious at the decision, and gave notice earlier this week that he would appeal.

“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 last weekend.

Quinn 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.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and other lawmakers met with FEMA administrator Craig Fugate in Washington Wednesday to challenge the decision.

FEMA has agreed to accept a revised damage estimate, which the state has three weeks to compile.

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