SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the state’s Hurricane Katrina Victim Assistance Hotline (800-843-6154) is offering a broader range of services and will be more available each day to the thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims who made their own way to Illinois, as well as the individuals, community organizations and local governments that have taken them in. The hotline connects displaced victims to state services available to them, ranging from housing assistance to medical care to employment. The American Red Cross estimates that there are more than 6,000 victims displaced by Hurricane Katrina living in Illinois with friends, family or in other temporary housing. Approximately 430 people traveled to Illinois on flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of Gulf Coast residents left their homes and found their own way to Illinois. While they are here, we will make every effort to connect them to resources and services - whether they need temporary housing, health care for their families, jobs, food or clothing” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Our hotline will also help the many generous individuals and organizations who are trying to make sure evacuees in Illinois are getting the assistance and tools they need to rebuild their lives.”
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) is coordinating the hotline. Hotline hours of operation are being extending so victims can call any time between 9am and midnight daily to find out what services are available to them. Callers will have one-stop access to all of the State of Illinois’ resources for Katrina victims – from emergency food and shelter to more long-term assistance like unemployment benefits and food stamps. Operators from the Department of Human Services will be able to connect callers to information on:
- Financial assistance available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross
- Help to evacuees who are looking for loved ones
- Enrolling children in preschool, K-12th grade, community colleges and public universities
- Energy Assistance that may be available through Illinois’ LIHEAP program to hurricane evacuees placed in temporary or permanent housing
- Various healthcare programs offered by the state and federal governments that may be available to evacuees
- Temporary and permanent housing available through the states, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Employment available in Illinois and through the U.S. Department of Labor
- Change of address forms from the United States Postal Service
- Other state and federal services and programs including crisis counseling, unemployment, rehabilitation services, developmental disabilities, veterans benefits, seniors benefits, child care, and substance abuse
- Caring for pets affected by Hurricane Katrina
The Governor set up the toll-free number as a part of the state’s centralized effort to assist refugees from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who come to Illinois. The number, 1-800-843-6154, went live Friday, September 2nd
, and will stay in service for as long as needed. Displaced victims with access to the internet can find more information on available services at www.Illinois.gov
. Users can also find a link on the state website to the federal government’s services and assistance available to those affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Since Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29th, Gov. Blagojevich ordered all state agencies to respond in a coordinated manner to help recovery and cleanup efforts in the Gulf Coast, and victims coming into Illinois:
- Arriving on four flights arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Illinois has received more than 430 displaced victims from the Gulf Coast states. Individuals and families, upon arrival received immediate medical care and were provided housing from the state in Tinley Park, Elgin, Alton and Rockford. The American Red Cross estimates an additional 6,000 displaced victims arrived in Illinois by their own means. Governor Blagojevich announced on September 4th, Illinois is ready to receive as many as 10,000 displaced victims, and 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.
- Gov. Blagojevich deployed more than 1,600 Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The deployments include nearly 600 firefighters and 800 National Guard troops.
- The Illinois Department of Employment Security is helping displaced victims process unemployment claims and facilitating job searches and job training. IDES and Central Management Services employees have set up remote computer stations in the state facilities in Tinley Park and Alton where the first displaced victims arrived, and are in the process of setting up the same services in Elgin and Rockford, where more evacuees arrived this week.
- A group of 100 state employees traveled to Louisiana to help the Louisiana Department of Social Services reach out to victims in remote areas of the state. The volunteers include clerical employees, security personnel, information technology specialists, drivers and mechanics.
- The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has reached out to state-chartered banks and thrifts and asked them to provide free check cashing, eliminate ATM service fees and help establish checking and saving accounts for displaced victims now residing in Illinois.
- The Illinois Department of Revenue has extended filing deadlines to taxpayers from counties damaged by Hurricane Katrina and who owe Illinois taxes, until October 31, 2005.
- 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 a total of 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, and 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, more than 400 children displaced by Hurricane Katrina are enrolled in 46 different Illinois school districts.
- 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 have offered free camping and removed length of stay requirements for Hurricane victims at all state parks and historic sites that offer camping.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation 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) made 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. IDOC has also delivered 3,000 bedrolls to the Red Cross in Hillside.
- The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs sent toiletries and food to facilities where displaced victims have been housed, and in collaboration with several other federal and private agencies will send food to the Gulf Coast states.
- The Department of Central Management Services 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 sent 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 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 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health dispatched twelve specialists to Louisiana. 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 were deployed.