ILLINOIS GOVERNOR Pat Quinn says he will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s decision to deny financial assistance to communities like Diamond and Coal City that were impacted by the Nov. 17 tornado. Quinn toured the damaged areas on Nov. 18 with Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc and Coal City Mayor Neal Nelson.
Ann Gill Editor
While the federal government has approved millions of dollars to help people and businesses recover from the Nov. 17 tornado, it won't be giving any money to help local governments who shouldered much of the responsibilty in cleaning up after the storm.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he will appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision.
"My administration will immediately work to develop a strong appeal that demonstrates how much this assistance is needed. The state of Illinois will continue doing everything necessary to help our hardest hit communities rebuild and recover from these historic tornadoes," Quinn stated.
Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc believes the governor will come through for the communities who were hardest hit.
Quinn's request for federal aid to communities in nine counties, including Grundy, was submitted in mid-December.
FEMA announced on Jan. 9 it will not cover any expenses that include police protection and debris removal.
"To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. I'm angry," Coal City Mayor Neal Nelson said, pointing to the dollars the federal government spends on foreign aid, a figure he puts at $2.4 million per hour. Nelson argues those funds should first be used to help Americans, especially in disaster situations like this.
FEMA's decision has a direct impact on his village, Diamond, and Grundy County as each submitted applications for reimbursement of documented tornado related expenses.
The village of Diamond was looking to recoup $90,000 in expenses while Coal City a little less than one-half that amount.
Roughly one quarter of Diamond's request was to cover the cost of debris removal. The bulk of Coal City's was for costs related to police protection and cleanup.
The state's request came to more than $6.1 million, a figure determined through a joint damage assessment conducted by FEMA and the state's Emergency Management Agency. The total fell short of the federal threshold of $17.8 million for the state, a figured calculated by multiplying the state's population by $1.35. As the governor's office points out, it's a calculation that hurts the changes of aid for geographically large states with urban centers like Illinois.
Mayor Nelson believes the volunteer support saved communities and insurance companies a large amount of money. Had the volunteers not come out to help clear debris, insurance providers and the municipalities would have been required to cover those costs. There was also savings due to the large number of donations.
"While the individual assistance designation that the counties received just before Christmas will help families and business recover, a public assistance designation is desperately needed to help local governments rebuild the infrastructure that will make these communities whole again," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
Kernc said the reimbursement her community sought was to cover about 90 percent of the village's total tornado- related costs to date. Some items, like food, are not reimbursable and she has a bill that comes close to $10,000.
The mayor said the recovery costs will be covered by contingencies built into the town budget, but it will have a financial impact moving forward.
As a result of the tornado, the village will also see a reduction in water revenue due to service disconnection's to the most severely damaged homes. Town officials have also been notified that the town's assessed value will slip in the coming year with a much more noticeable decline the following tax year.
Unit 1 School District officials have been told damage from the tornado will reduce the district's assessed value by $532,760 which results in a loss of about $17,000 this tax year.
"Our community's families, first responders, elected officials and volunteers continue to work tirelessly to rebuild and recover from the terrible disasters, and they are in dire need of federal assistance," said State Rep. Kate Cloonen.
Cloonen stands with other state and federal office holders who support the governor's appeal.
"Having seen first-hand the destruction that our state has suffered, and having met countless volunteers and families affected by the 24 tornadoes, those families and the hard working members of our community deserve the opportunity to rebuild and recover from the deadly storms. I fully support Governor Quinn's appeal of this decision," stated U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.