FEMA denies aid for communities hit by November tornadoes

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.

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