Durbin: Federal disaster relief needs clarification

April 20, 2012

By Jewell Washington

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said disaster relief standards need to be clarified.

Durbin, a Democrat, and Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk are sponsoring the Fairness Federal Disaster Declarations Act, legislation that defines how the federal government chooses to give out federal aid post-disaster.

The bill comes after downstate Illinois was hit by February tornadoes and denied federal aid.

Durbin said a federal aid formula based on Illinois' population, near 12 million, isn't realistic when considering small towns facing economic problems.

"The law basically says Illinois, because you have a large population, you can't become a federal disaster area," Durbin said. "That's not fair. It isn't as if our state is rolling in money, just the opposite is true, so we're going to try to change this formula... make it more realistic".

The proposal would require the Federal Emergency Managment Agency to give specific weight to various factors considered when determining which communities are eligible for federal help. It would also require FEMA to consider a town's income and poverty level in comparison with the rest of the state after a disaster.

FEMA declined to comment on the proposed legislation.