FEMA denies aid for communities hit by November tornadoes

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Nearly two months after a string of deadly tornadoes cut across communities in Illinois, FEMA has announced it won’t provide public assistance from Washington D.C.

FEMA said the total storm damage was not severe enough for public assistance.

Governor Quinn has already announced that he will appeal the decision.

The public assistance would have gone to towns in nine Illinois counties including Champaign, Douglas, Grundy, Massac, Tazewell, Vermilion, Washington, Wayne and Woodford counties, hit by those November tornadoes to help with towns with costs related to the tornado; for example, debris removal or damage to government owned buildings.

“Most of you heard that we were denied public assistance today. Disappointed yes, but excited about our appeal,” said Washington, Illinois Mayor Gary Manier at a community meeting Thursday, January 9, 2014.

An EF-4 tornado destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes in Washington on November 17, 2013.

“The severity and magnitude of the disaster was not deemed severe enough to warrant assistance,” said a spokesperson with FEMA at the community meeting.

It’s hard to believe with so much visible damage.

“I can't say that I was surprised,” said Washington City Administrator Tim Gleason.

According to a press release from Governor Quinn's office, in order to receive federal help, a state needs to meet a certain threshold. That threshold is found by multiplying the state’s population by $1.35, totaling $17.8 million for Illinois. Initial costs for damage from the tornado were only at $6.1 million.

“As we've gone through the month of December for all the communities involved, those numbers increased dramatically,” said Gleason.

A clearer picture is developing now of how much cleaning up the damage will cost. In Washington alone, debris removal has cost the city more than $6 million. That’s why the town of Washington and Governor Quinn will appeal FEMA’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,” said Governor Quinn in a press release.

“It's a very important piece that we're not gonna give up on,” said Gleason.

While public assistance was denied, individual assistance was not. According to FEMA,  more than 1,400 people have registered for assistance in Tazewell County.


  • Tim

    ““The severity and magnitude of the disaster was not deemed severe enough to warrant assistance,” said a spokesperson with FEMA at the community meeting”

    You’d be singing a different tune if your family or other loved ones were here.

  • Elizabeth

    This is NO SURSPRISE TO ME!!! Anyone who has been through a flood knows… FEMA is a JOKE!!! They only help friends & family is my understanding or people of influence or power.

  • Dustin

    Our government sends billions overseas to help anyone (even if they hate America). Yet they won’t help their own because they don’t meet a threshold? Shame on our government!

  • phill

    This is just another example of poor reporting. Fema did not deny assistance to families. They merely denied funding the municipal debris removal costs because the size of the disaster was not big enough to warrant federal assistance. Individual assistance to survivors was approved weeks ago. Wake-up folks. The media just loves a juicy headline. Good journalism is dead.

  • Dustin

    That is a good point Phill. I still ask why so much aid is sent overseas, but we can’t help our own… Misleading headline, yes, but the principle point is still there. Local towns won’t get help, but other countries do? Its a hard pill for me to swallow.

    • phill

      I do agree with you to a point. I do think that we stretch ourselves pretty thin in terms of funding. But as bad as things seem here sometimes, it is important to maintain a position in the world of consequence, not only to us, but our allies and enemies as well. Do we really want small nations turning to China for assistance? We also need to remember that often one funding stream has nothing to do with the other. Even if we did not send cash over seas, it is not likely it would be used for domestic response.

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