Durbin: On One Year Anniversary Of Tragic Illinois Tornado, Communities Continue To Work Together, Rebuild

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement on the one-year anniversary of a rare November tornado that tore through Central and Southern Illinois, causing widespread devastation and eight deaths in the state.

“The people who live and work in the communities damaged by last year’s storms have made incredible progress rebuilding. Thousands of volunteers have helped with the cleanup. Hearing stories of friends and neighbors – and even strangers – work together to get back on their feet makes me proud to be from Illinois,” said Durbin.

“For their hard work and dedication over the last year, I want to recognize Jonathon Monken, head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency; Washington Mayor Gary Manier; Gifford Mayor Derald Ackerman; Brookport Mayor John Klaffer; and Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel. They were there when their communities needed them the most.”

To date, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided more than $28 million in loans to the Illinois tornado victims through a program called “Individual Assistance.” Funding through this program was granted to residents of Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, LaSalle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will, and Woodford counties. The declaration by President Obama to award “Individual Assistance” allowed people in these communities to start repairs on their damaged homes and businesses and to find temporary housing if needed. Additionally, the Small Business Administration provided 305 loans for a total of $25.8 million to businesses in the affected counties. 

Following the initial denial of “Public Assistance” to cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure – including roads, bridges, and public buildings – and other local government costs, Durbin joined U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) to reintroduce their Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act. This bipartisan legislation would ensure consistency and fairness in FEMA’s disaster declaration process by requiring FEMA to give a specified weight to each of the factors considered when determining which communities are eligible for two types of federal assistance Individual and Public. It would also require FEMA to take into consideration local economic factors including: the local assessable tax base, the median income as it compares to that of the state, and the poverty rate as it compares to that of the state. 

Though FEMA has never revealed an exact formula for determining a disaster declaration, the agency has confirmed that it considers six factors to determine eligibility for both “Individual Assistance” and “Public Assistance.” The relative weight of each factor remains unknown and may even fluctuate with different scenarios. 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.  This is true in determining whether both “Individual Assistance” and “Public Assistance” is warranted.