Lawmakers appeal FEMA's denial of aid for tornado damage in southern Illinois
WASHINGTON -- Illinois' U.S. senators said Sunday that they will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency's denial of the state's request for federal assistance to five counties in southern Illinois that were struck by tornadoes and severe storms at the end of February -- including the twister that killed seven people and injured 100 in Harrisburg.
Criticizing the federal rejection of Illinois' aid request as "unacceptable," Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk called for a meeting between members of the state's congressional delegation and the head of the FEMA this week to support Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal. In a letter to Quinn, FEMA said the aid request was not granted because "the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies.”
"This decision by FEMA is unacceptable and out of touch with the reality that residents of Harrisburg, Ridgway and the surrounding areas are facing as the storm clean-up continues,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We fully support the appeal that Gov. Quinn is putting together and would like to discuss that with [FEMA] Administrator [Craig] Fugate and the Illinois Congressional delegation."
Start of update: The Illinois delegation is scheduled to meet Wednesday with FEMA's Fugate to discuss the state's appeal of FEMA's decision on tornado
aid. End update.
State officials had requested assistance for Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson counties. The request related to the tornadoes and severe storms that struck the region between Feb. 29 -- when a major twister struck Harrisburg -- and March 2. To qualify for federal disaster status, the damage calculated by FEMA surveyors had to total more than $12 million.
"The damage from the storms in southern Illinois is among the worst our state has seen in recent years," Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirk, R-Ill., said in the joint statement. "Federal funding is greatly needed to help residents and families rebuild and we will continue working to see that these communities are made whole again.”
Separately, the two senators were joined by the entire Illinois congressional delegation last week in sending a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to issue a major disaster declaration for Illinois and provide relief for the five counties. Such a disaster declaration would allow cities and counties to apply for federal reimbursements to help pay for storm damage repairs.
Meanwhile, Missouri's U.S. senators -- Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill -- sent a letter last week supporting Gov. Jay Nixon's request for disaster aid for 18 counties related to the tornados that struck Branson and elsewhere in southern Missouri on Feb. 28, causing three deaths and nearly 100 injuries, as well as power outages to over 22,000 households and businesses.
Nixon has requested aid for the following counties: Adair, Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Cedar, Dallas, Daviess, Laclede, Linn, Madison, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Scott, Stoddard, Stone, and Taney. He also asked for Hazard Mitigation help for the entire state.
"In light of the serious impact of this event on lives and property in the areas that has occurred, it is our sincere hope that you will grant Gov. Nixon’s request in a prompt manner, to help in the recovery of residents and communities affected by this disaster," the Missouri senators wrote in their March 9 letter.