(CBS/AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn said the state is stepping in with $45 million in disaster relief funds to help local governments recover from last November’s tornados, after the federal government turned them down.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports the funds will help local governments in towns hit by the tornados pay for cleanup, including Washington, which was hardest hit by the twisters, with 1,000 homes destroyed or severely damaged.
In all, eight people were killed and approximately 2,500 homes were damaged or destroyed on Nov. 17, 2013, when approximately two dozen twisters swept through central and southern Illinois.
Washington Mayor Gary Manier said he’s grateful to the governor, and frustrated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which twice denied relief funds for local governments.
Manier was able to see a positive in all of this.
“The good thing about the FEMA process that’s going to come out of this is we pretty much have a lot of documentation showing what we’ve spent to date, what some of our projections are from an infrastructure standpoint,” he said.
Manier said Washington spent $26 million on cleanup, more than its entire annual budget.
FEMA provided federal disaster assistance to families and businesses affected by the tornados, but denied a request from the state to help local governments pay for their own cleanup costs. The state appealed that decision, but was again denied funds.
Quinn’s office blamed the decision on outdated federal rules, and not the serious need that exists in hard-hit Illinois communities.
“Illinois has recently faced a record number of historic natural disasters,” Quinn said. “Federal assistance shouldn’t be based on a formula that excludes our hardest-hit communities.”
Quinn and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk complained that communities in highly populated states — such as Illinois, with its more than 10 million people — under FEMA’s aid formula must incur a greater level of damage than communities in lesser-populated states.
Kirk said he will work with Durbin and other members of Illinois’ congressional delegation to pass the reforms needed to ensure the state is treated fairly.
“FEMA has gotten it wrong in Illinois not once but twice,” Durbin said in a statement. “The federal government can’t be expected to help after every weather event, but the damage I saw in Central Illinois convinced me that we need to be doing more.”
In a recent emailed response to The Associated Press, FEMA said it “carefully considered” Illinois’ request but concluded “the public costs associated with the response and recovery efforts were not beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments such that additional federal assistance is required.”
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