CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today thanked President Bush for the federal government’s quick review and approval of his request Thursday to declare LaSalle, Putnam, Kankakee and Will Counties as federal disaster areas. The declaration opens the door to federal assistance for residents and businesses struggling to recover from Tuesday’s tornadoes.
“After touring the areas on Wednesday and meeting with many people whose homes and businesses were ravaged by the tornadoes, I knew we needed to move quickly to get them the assistance they so desperately need,” Blagojevich said. “We worked diligently to put together the information needed for our request to the federal government as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, Governor Blagojevich asked the federal government to expedite the process of naming the impacted counties as federal disaster areas to help affected citizens cope with both immediate needs and the process of getting their lives back to normal.
Governor Blagojevich and Michael D. Brown, Undersecretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, toured tornado-ravaged Utica on Friday. Following the tour, Undersecretary Brown announced the federal disaster declaration. Governor Blagojevich declared the counties a state disaster area when he first toured the storm-damaged area on Wednesday.
The federal disaster declaration enables residents and business owners to apply for federal assistance programs, including grants and loans to assist residents business owners whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the assistance program, will be opening a toll-free telephone number (800-621-FEMA) for victims to apply for assistance.
Tuesday night’s tornadoes killed eight people in Utica and damaged or destroyed over 650 homes and businesses in the affected area. More than 100 families had homes that were severely damaged or destroyed.
The Governor’s state disaster declaration made state resources available to help clean up storm debris and assist the community. State efforts to help remove storm debris continued Friday in Granville and Utica with equipment and staff coordinated by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency along with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Corrections.