After a meeting to discuss the recent denial of federal assistance to five counties in Southern Illinois, members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation today said that they pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, Craig Fugate, on the importance of federal disaster aid to the residents and businesses impacted by severe storms and tornadoes earlier this month. Delegation members also pressed FEMA for a quick decision on the State of Illinois' appeal which will likely be filed in a few days.
The meeting was held today in U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)'s Washington office with representatives from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)'s office and representatives from the office's of U.S. Congressmen John Shimkus (R-IL), Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL). The Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Jonathon Monken, also joined the meeting by phone.
"The damage in Harrisburg, Ridgway and the surrounding communities was some of the worst I have ever seen. I couldn't believe that the federal government initially denied Illinois' request for aid, but I am encouraged by today's meeting with Administrator Fugate," said Durbin. "During the appeals process, FEMA will be looking much more closely at the impact these storms had and additional data that wasn't included in the original request. I am confident that when the process is complete, residents and businesses in Southern Illinois will have the assistance they need to recover and rebuild."
"In today's meeting, Administrator Fugate agreed to evaluate any new data the state of Illinois provides to further demonstrate the impact of the storms in Harrisburg, Ridgway and the surrounding areas. We are hopeful that the ongoing evaluations will make the case for what we all know to be true -- that the storms caused massive damage that warrants federal assistance," said a Kirk Spokesperson.
"I was quite surprised when I got the call Saturday night about FEMA's denial, after having seen the damage myself. I hope that new information will make an appeal successful, and I will fully support such an effort by the Governor," said Shimkus.
"We are all in agreement on the path forward regarding re-evaluating the damage and making sure we have a full accounting of the costs incurred," said Costello. "Uninsured losses and the depth of structural damage to buildings are key factors in this process and are being closely monitored. We appreciate Administrator Fugate's attention to the events in Southern Illinois and look forward to continuing working with FEMA as the appeal is filed."
"I am relieved to know this decision by FEMA is being reevaluated," said Johnson. "This agency exists for precisely this purpose and if this disaster in Southern Illinois doesn't qualify, I cannot imagine what would."
Last week, Durbin, Kirk, Shimkus, Costello and Johnson were joined by the entire Illinois Congressional Delegation sending a letter to President Obama asking him to issue a major disaster declaration for the State of Illinois and to provide relief for Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union, and Williamson Counties due to the storms and tornadoes that ravaged the area leaving local governments, charitable organizations, voluntary agencies and evacuees taking on the initial costs of the disasters. A Presidential disaster declaration would allow cities and counties to apply for federal reimbursements to help pay for storm damage repairs.