(Source Alexandra Chachkevitch Chicago Tribune (MCT) — Gov. Pat Quinn has asked a federal disaster agency to reconsider granting aid to five southern Illinois counties that were struck by tornadoes last month.
“It’s time for our state and federal governments to come together … to help with the recovery,” said Quinn at a Friday morning news conference. “We’ll continue to push until it’s done right.”
Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the state’s request for federal assistance — a need estimated at around $9 million in grants and low-interest loans for repairs and temporary housing, among other things.
A massive EF-4 tornado struck Feb. 29, killing seven people while demolishing scores of buildings and damaging a medical center.
Quinn said the appeal, which was supported by Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and other federal and local officials, included additional information about the tornado’s damage and the socioeconomic status of the affected areas.
As officials continued totaling the damage after the state’s initial request, they learned that 440 homes had been damaged or destroyed in Gallatin, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson counties, according to a damage assessment by state and federal agencies.
“(Agency officials) don’t realize the severity of the damage,” Quinn said, adding that he hopes to receive a determination on the appeal “as soon as possible.”
Quinn said the most damaged areas, Harrisburg and Ridgway, are also some of the most economically challenged in Illinois.
“For some, a full recovery may be impossible unless they receive the grant and low-interest loans that are only available through a federal disaster declaration,” Quinn said.
FEMA’s denial letter said that the damage to the southern Illinois counties “was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies,” said Patti Thompson, communications manager at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
“We’re certainly doing everything we possibly can” to help the affected areas, Thompson said, while noting that there is no disaster aid program similar to FEMA on the state level.
In addition to Illinois, FEMA denied aid to Ohio and Missouri, but it approved requests from Kentucky and Indiana, all of which were struck by tornadoes in late February and early March.
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