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FEMA Denies Relief Aid For Southern Illinois Towns Hit By Tornadoes

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 12, 2012 3:20PM

Mayor Eric Gregg of downstate Harrisburg, Ill. said he will move quickly to appeal the Federal Emergency Management Authority decision not to provide federal disaster relief to the town and other parts of Southern Illinois hit hard by severe tornadoes last month.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk also criticized the decision. Quinn released a statement yesterday that read:

"I am extremely disappointed that FEMA denied our request for federal assistance that is needed to help people in Harrisburg, Ridgway and the other communities devastated by this deadly tornado. 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.

“I support Senator Dick Durbin’s efforts to encourage federal officials to reconsider their decision. In the meantime, I have directed Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken to continue working with local officials to ensure that we do everything possible to secure critical assistance."

Gregg told the Tribune he hopes President Obama can visit the area to see the damage wreaked by the storms and why FEMA relief is needed.

"I want to know how this decision was reached and why," Gregg said. "Because frankly, I don't understand it."

Six people were killed in the Feb. 29 tornado that hit Harrisburg, which was classified an EF4. FEMA, in their letter announcing their decision, said that assistance from state and local agencies, as well as volunteer mobilization and private insurance, was enough for the five downstate counties to recover from the tornadoes on their own.

Four of the five counties were declared disaster areas last June after they suffered severe flooding, paying out $28.5 million in assistance. The Army Corps of Engineers blew up a levee in Missouri to prevent the town of Cairo from flooding.