March , 2019

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As FEMA considers appeal for Public Assistance for Central and Southern Illinois, members point to their legislation as a way to create a level playing field during a disaster

WASHINGTON, DC – In a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Representative Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) today pressed once again for a public assistance designation that would allow federal aid funding to flow to the nine Southern and Central Illinois counties that are rebuilding after deadly tornadoes struck the state on November 17, 2013.  During today’s meeting, the members shared their concerns regarding FEMA’s funding formulas – which unfairly put downstate Illinois communities at a disadvantage following a disaster – and pressed the agency to consider their legislation to bring consistency and fairness to FEMA’s disaster declaration process. A photo of today’s meeting is available here.

“The thousands impacted by these deadly tornadoes deserve adequate aid and assistance in order to recover and rebuild their communities,” Senator Kirk said. “Senator Durbin, Representative Schock and I will continue to push FEMA to revise their methodology for determining aid, and will continue to fight on behalf of the people of Illinois.”

“In many other states, the amount of damage sustained by Southern and Central Illinois communities last November would easily qualify for federal assistance,” Senator Durbin said. “Today, we urged Administrator Fugate to reconsider funding formulas that might penalize these communities simply because they are in a state with a large population. I will continue working Senator Kirk, Representative Schock, and our Illinois colleagues to support these communities however we can as they recover and rebuild.”

“The initial denial by FEMA for a Public Assistance disaster declaration for the storms that devastated Illinois on November 17, 2013 is unacceptable” Representative Schock said. “That decision was based on a flawed system which disadvantages the small and rural communities trying to recover from the devastating emotional and economic impact of these storms. The City of Washington, IL and the surrounding areas have independently demonstrated the case for disaster assistance – something Senator Durbin, Senator Kirk and myself continued to highlight for Director Fugate today. With more than 1100 homes destroyed or heavily damaged in Tazewell County and accumulated public damages assessed in excess of $20 million as certified by the state of Illinois, there is simply no excuse for the federal government not to provide the most robust amount of assistance possible.”

Following the November 2013 deadly storms, Governor Quinn requested federal aid for local governments in Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford counties.  On November 26, President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the State of Illinois making residents and businesses eligible for federal Individual Assistance funding which provides financial assistance to help with temporary housing, home repairs or replacement and other disaster-related expenses. Though more than $21 million in federal aid has been approved to help people and businesses affected by the November tornadoes and severe storms, Governor Quinn’s request for Public Assistance to cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure (roads, bridges, public buildings, etc.) and other local government costs was denied, but is currently under appeal.

Earlier this year, Durbin and Kirk introduced bipartisan legislation in the Senate to bring consistency and fairness to FEMA’s disaster declaration process. The Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act was also introduced in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of members from the Illinois Congressional Delegation including Schock and: Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Bill Enyart (D-Ill.).

In a severe storm or natural disaster, communities in a state, like Illinois, with a large population – more than 10 million people – must incur a relatively higher level of damage than communities in a state with a smaller population. The Kirk-Durbin bill would require FEMA to take into consideration local economic factors in order to ensure that communities struck by disaster are not denied federal assistance because of the population of the state. More information on the legislation is available here.

In a letter to FEMA in January, Kirk and Durbin asked the agency to also fix their funding formulas for Public Assistance which was denied to local governments in Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford counties following deadly storms and tornadoes in November 2013. FEMA is currently reviewing its process for Public Assistance as required by law in the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013.

For b-roll from today’s meeting, please click here.

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