Durbin, Kirk Statement on FEMA Denial of Public Assistance for Nine Illinois Counties

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) today released the following statement after learning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Illinois’ appeal of the agency’s original decision not to award Public Assistance funding to the nine Southern and Central Illinois counties that are rebuilding after deadly tornadoes struck the state on November 17, 2013.  Though more than $21 million in federal aid through FEMA’s Individual Assistance program has already been approved to help people and businesses, Public Assistance would have help local governments cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure including roads, bridges and public buildings.


“FEMA has gotten it wrong in Illinois not once but twice,” said Durbin.  “The federal government can’t be expected to help after every weather event, but the damage I saw in Central Illinois convinced me that we need to be doing more.  Senator Kirk and I have a bill - introduced in the House by members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation – that would fix FEMA’s funding formulas so communities in downstate Illinois are no longer at a disadvantage when disaster strikes.  I will be working with my colleagues to advance the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act and to identify funding opportunities that will help make these communities whole again.”


“I'm disappointed FEMA again denied public assistance to the Illinois towns devastated by last November's tornadoes,” Senator Kirk said. “Having seen firsthand the destruction and deadly impact these storms had, I know these communities deserve federal funds. FEMA's methods and formulas for determining aid are clearly broken. I will continue working with Senator Durbin, Congressman Schock and the Illinois delegation to pass the reforms needed to ensure communities in our state are treated fairly and get the assistance they need to rebuild and recover from this destruction.”


Earlier this year, Durbin and Kirk introduced bipartisan legislation in the Senate to bring consistency and fairness to FEMA’s disaster declaration process. The Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act was also introduced in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan group of members from the Illinois Congressional Delegation including: U.S. Representatives Aaron Schock (R-IL), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL), John Shimkus (R-IL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Bill Enyart (D-IL).


In a severe storm or natural disaster, communities in a state, like Illinois, with a large population – more than 10 million people – must incur a relatively higher level of damage than communities in a state with a smaller population. The Durbin-Kirk bill would require FEMA to take into consideration local economic factors in order to ensure that communities struck by disaster are not denied federal assistance because of the population of the state. More information on the legislation is available here.