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Obama Declares 15 Tornado-Struck Counties Disaster Areas

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Tornado damaged homes are seen on November 18, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. According to reports the tonado that ripped across Washington, Illinois has been preliminary classified as an EF-4. A fast-moving storm system that spawned multiple tornadoes which touched down across the Midwest, leaving behind a path of destruction in 12 states and killing at least five.  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Tornado damaged homes are seen on November 18, 2013 in Washington, Illinois. According to reports the tonado that ripped across Washington, Illinois has been preliminary classified as an EF-4. A fast-moving storm system that spawned multiple tornadoes which touched down across the Midwest, leaving behind a path of destruction in 12 states and killing at least five. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

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(STMW) – President Barack Obama signed a disaster relief declaration Tuesday covering 15 Illinois counties, freeing up federal funds for areas recovering from the Nov. 17 tornadoes.

The announcement came one day after Gov. Pat Quinn submitted his request for tornado relief for the affected counties, where more than 1,000 homes remain uninhabitable, the governor’s office said in a release.

Federal aid money will go to relief efforts in Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, LaSalle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties, Quinn’s office said.

More than 2,400 homes were damaged from at 24 tornadoes that ripped through the state Nov. 17, killing at least 6 people.

“Just days before Thanksgiving, this is good news for thousands of people in Illinois who have suffered so much,” Governor Quinn said in the release. “I thank President Obama for his swift approval that will bring much-needed federal relief to those who desperately need it in the wake of these deadly storms.”

The declaration means residents, businesses and non profit organizations in those 15 counties are eligible for grants and low-interest loans to help with disaster-related needs and damage, the governor’s office said.

Residents can also access crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security and veteran’s benefits.

“The tornado damage that I saw firsthand last week was some of the worst I have ever seen,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement released by his office. “It will take months and in many cases, years, to rebuild, but I hope today’s decision by President Obama will give families in Central and Southern Illinois some relief this holiday season knowing that federal help is on the way. I am pleased this disaster declaration has come so quickly.”

Anyone seeking more information about disaster recovery resources should visit www.ready.illinois.gov.

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