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Thousands Line Up To Meet Deadline For State Flood Assistance

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UPDATED: 6/21/2013 3:30 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – On Friday, thousands of Chicago area residents were lining up at social service centers, waiting for a chance to get help from the state to pay for flood relief from the April and May storms.

Friday is the deadline to apply for disaster relief funds from the state.

In Calumet Park, many people started waiting in line overnight, and hundreds of people were lined up outside by 11 a.m., waiting in the heat to get Illinois Link cards to help pay for food. Many brought folding chairs as they wait in a line wrapping around a large city block outside the state office.

It’s been a slow crawl to the front door, and everyone in line wants their turn inside.

Officials were handing out tickets to everyone in line, so Walter and Trina Jones of Harvey said they can count on getting what they came for.

“It was really bad. I had water on my walls, my clothes was mildewed, my backyard was flooded,” Walter Jones said.

They estimated their house sustained a few thousand dollars in damage.

Trina said the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected their request for flood assistance funds.

“They came out to our house, did an inspection, and sent us a letter, and told us that we didn’t have enough damage,” she said.

On Friday, if they can prove to a state worker they qualify for state assistance, they will go home with the state’s equivalent food stamps, a Link Card that can be used to pay for food from the grocery, or seeds and plants for gardens. The average payout for flood victims is $380.

“It would really help us. You could see I like to eat,” Walter Jones joked.

People stayed in line even has the afternoon rain storms rumbled through.

“I’m not going anywhere. I been waiting too long now.” one person said.

Many got in line early in the morning; some even camped out overnight.

State worker Lavonne Banks said she is not surprised by the turnout.

“I think, because the demand is so great, they came early. The early bird catches the worm,” she said.

There were also long lines for state aid at the office in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood on Friday.

State officials expected the Link cards for flood victims would cost a total of $30 million, and would be funded through a federal grant.

“We’re going to service everybody that we can. We won’t be turning anyone away,” Banks said.

Anyone seeking state aid must be in line by 1 p.m. to get a ticket. The state is expecting to help 65,000 people statewide, but 90 percent of the people are from the Chicago area.

To be eligible for benefits, flood victims must live in specific ZIP codes, have suffered damage to their home or business, paid flood-related expenses that have not yet been reimbursed by the state or FEMA, and have had a loss of income due to floods between April 16 and May 15.

If you miss the deadline for state aid, the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance from the spring floods in Illinois is July 9. Storm victims can visit the agency’s disaster assistance website to find out how to apply.