CHICAGO- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich tonight received the first 180 individuals and families displaced from Gulf Coast states by Hurricane Katrina and directed his state agencies to immediately provide medical care, housing and any forms of assistance necessary for victims of one of the worst disasters in U.S. history. At Chicago’s House of Hope church, where a triage area was set up to provide comprehensive care to individuals and families, Gov. Blagojevich welcomed displaced victims from the hurricane-ravaged areas, and made sure they were bused to appropriate housing. Illinois stands ready to receive a total of up to 10,000 displaced victims.
“Today Illinois comes through on its promise to open its doors to our fellow Americans who have been victims of a horrible tragedy. Every single one of these people will get the medical care they need, clothing, and hot meals. Tonight, they will sleep with a roof over their heads and tomorrow their children will have a chance to enroll in school,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Nothing will ever compensate for the losses these people have suffered. But at least in Illinois, they will have a chance to get back on their feet, and new friends and neighbors who will look after them for as long as it’s needed.”
The plane dispatched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from an evacuation center in the Gulf Coast Area arrived late tonight in Chicago carrying nearly 180 individuals.
Upon arrival, individuals and families were taken to a triage center at House of Hope chruch, where immediate medical care was provided. State agencies processed all arriving individuals and bused them to local housing, provided by the State of Illinois.
Illinois stands ready to receive up to 10,000 displaced victims, as announced on Sunday by Governor Blagojevich. The Governor has called elected officials, community leaders, not-for-profit organizations, religious institutions and social service providers to match the State of Illinois’ coordinated relief effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Governor Blagojevich has also encouraged Illinois residents, as well as all state and public universities employees, to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Donations can be made by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW or 800-275-7575 (Spanish), or through a secure internet site at www.redcross.org
Additionally, the Governor has set up a toll free number that is part of the state’s coordinated effort to assist displaced persons who come to Illinois. The number, 1-800-843-6154, will stay in service for as long as needed. The toll free number has received several dozen calls from Gulf Coast area residents who were able to come to Illinois before or shortly after the onset of the tragedy.
By calling the number, displaced families and individuals will be able to find out how and where they can get food, clothing and medical care. Operators from the Department of Human Services will also offer them information on food stamps, child care, housing, K-12 public school enrollment, unemployment benefits, as well as services and benefits for veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities.
Displaced victims across the country can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to get registered for cash grants for hotel and rental assistance, home repair cash grants, home replacement cash grants, medical, dental, funeral costs, transportation costs and other disaster-related needs. TTY for hearing/speech impaired is 1-800-462-7585.
Private citizens who want to offer assistance to arriving victims, can also call a toll-free number specially set up by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and specify to operators how they can help. That number is 1-800-610-2095.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, Gov. Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to respond in a coordinated manner to help both the recovery and cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast, and the victims coming into Illinois. Illinois’ efforts to date include:
- Gov. Blagojevich announced the deployment of nearly 1,100 more Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The latest deployments include nearly 600 firefighters who left Monday and 500 National Guard troops that are preparing to depart for Louisiana on Wednesday. This latest deployment brings to 800 the number of Illinois National Guard troops sent to Louisiana.
- A total of 134 highly trained law enforcement officers from state and local agencies were deployed to Louisiana. These include Weapons of Mass Destruction teams, Tactical Response teams, Underwater Dive teams, a mobile command post, various all terrain vehicles, boats and trucks. The Illinois Department of Transportation contributed 500 yards of fencing and 500 stakes on two lowboys pulled by two semis that will be in the law enforcement convoy.
- The Governor dispatched 52 members of the Illinois Medical Emergency Response Teams (IMERT) to Louisiana to assist with care of the massive number of sick and injured victims from Hurricane Katrina.
- The Governor dispatched an 11-member Incident Management Team to George County, Mississippi to assist local emergency managers during the crisis.
- The Governor ordered the state’s public schools to waive residency requirements and enroll any child displaced by Hurricane Katrina who relocates to live with family, friends or in a shelter in Illinois. To date, the Illinois State Board of Education has received requests from some 30 students that will be placed in school districts in Belleville, Peoria, Wheaton, Metro East, South Cook (Lansing) and Whiteside County.
- The state’s public universities have also responded to the Governor’s call to provide accommodations for college students displaced by the hurricane. The state’s 39 community colleges will accommodate any Illinois resident displaced from higher education studies because of the hurricane, while Illinois’ 12 public universities will also take in students affected by the destruction along the Gulf Coast. Students are encouraged to contact admissions offices at each university to being an expedited process to enroll in the institution and to access university services like financial aid.
- The Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency are offering free camping and have removed length of stay requirements for Hurricane victims at all state parks and historic sites that offer camping.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation has waived certain transportation rules to allow standard-sized semis carrying supplies and materials to Louisiana to be overweight by up to 15,000 pounds when they travel on Illinois roads. Currently, a standard-sized semi is only allowed to weigh 80,000 pounds when traveling through Illinois. IDOT will also grant emergency permits to companies that need to move oversized equipment to the impacted area.
- The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is making available various items through IEMA’s emergency procurement system including 256,000 half pints of water, 8,500 blankets, 18,300 clothing items, and 2,900 dozen packages of cleaning supplies.
- The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is assisting its counterparts in Louisiana and Mississippi with taking Disaster Unemployment Assistance claims and regular claims. IDES is also providing IEMA with timely information on Illinoisans who have the job skills required for civil engineering, health and safety engineering and other areas of expertise that are greatly needed during this time of emergency. In coordination with the affected areas, IDES is also instructing its local offices to help evacuees receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance. IDES is already helping nearly 700 Illinois unemployment claimants living in the affected areas. IDES has set up a toll-free number (888-337-7234) to provide information on claims. Illinois claimants residing in Mississippi can also call the IDES Harvey office at 708-596-2325, while claimants residing in Louisiana and Alabama can call the Moline office at 309-764-8731.
- The Department of Central Management Services has made available its Bureau of Communication and Computer Services (BCCS) to help provide communications assistance to devastated areas. Using broadband services, including high speed data transmission to remote areas underserved by local carriers, BCCS can provide relief command centers with uplinks for phone and internet access, and also links to shelters so displaced individuals can call loved ones.
- The Department of Human Services is sending staff skilled in processing Food Stamps, to help the United States Department of Agriculture implement a Disaster Food Stamp program in 25 Louisiana counties.
- The Illinois Department of Agriculture has made available to the Illinois State Police the Expo Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds as a staging area to consolidate personnel, equipment and supplies in preparation for deployment. The building could be used for several days, providing a secure, easily accessible location for supplies and vehicles of all sizes.
- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health are contributing twelve specialists that are leaving for Louisiana today. The specialists are members of four environmental health strike teams being sent by the state at the request of the Louisiana Emergency Management Agency. Their expertise includes drinking water, sewage, food safety and food salvage. In addition, two IEPA trucks stocked with emergency response equipment and two IPDH vehicles are being deployed.
- The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) continues to be fully activated with representatives of more than a dozen state agencies and IEMA personnel who are assessing assets their agencies could provide to assist disaster response and recovery efforts. SEOC is in continual contact with the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) officials in the affected states to coordinate requests for assistance with assets Illinois can offer.