FEMA denies aid for storm-ravaged southern Illinois

March 12, 2012

ASSOCIATED PRESS AND ILLINOIS PUBLIC RADIO

(AP)

Illinois' senators and Gov. Pat Quinn are denouncing a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deny disaster aid to southern Illinois counties ravaged by tornadoes.

A powerful Feb. 29 tornado left seven people dead in the southern Illinois community of Harrisburg, and hundreds of homes destroyed across the region. Quinn's office had sought a major disaster declaration for the state and assistance for several southern counties. In denying the request, FEMA said the damage was not "beyond the capabilities of the State, affected local governments and voluntary agencies."

Gov. Quinn released a statement Sunday in response to FEMA's decision, saying he was "extremely disappointed."

"After personally surveying the damage and talking to many residents who lost their homes, I firmly believe federal assistance is crucial to help them begin the recovery process," the statement said. The governor's office has 30 days to submit an appeal to FEMA.

Sen. Dick Durbin told Illinois Public Radio the lack of federal funds will make it tough on local government, businesses and individuals affected by the storms.

"Without the federal designation, there are limited opportunities for federal help. And take a look at what's happening here with our own state treasury. There's a limited opportunity there to compensate for these losses," he said. "I have just never seen worse devastation, and I find it hard to imagine that it didn't qualify."

Sens. Durbin and Mark Kirk said Sunday they have requested a meeting with FEMA leadership and would seek to overturn the ruling.