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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich declares August 29 Katrina Day of Remembrance in Illinois
State continues providing services and assistance to thousands of Katrina evacuees still living in Illinois

CHICAGO – As the nation remembered the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the largest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today declared August 29 as Katrina Day of Remembrance in Illinois, to remember those who perished or lost their homes in the Gulf States, to commend everybody in the state who helped the evacuees and to announce that the State continues to provide help and assistance to thousands of Katrina guests still living in Illinois.

“Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of thousands of men, women and children. One year after the tragedy, we must remember those who died or lost their homes and keep in mind that there are thousands more who still need help to get their lives back in order. A year ago, Illinois stepped up to the plate and helped more than 10,000 victims find shelter, food, medical care and even schools for their children. And we will continue helping evacuees living in Illinois for as long as they need assistance,” said Gov. Blagojevich who issued a proclamation marking this date as Katrina Day of Remembrance in Illinois. “Today we must also remember and commend all those in Illinois who helped thousands of people from the Gulf States in their time of need.”

In order to strengthen the State’s commitment to look after its guests, Gov. Blagojevich has directed the Illinois Department of Human Services to make sure Katrina evacuees are not at risk for homelessness. Starting in October, and running through September of 2007, DHS will implement a program that will offer Katrina evacuees up to three months of rental assistance, two months of security deposit assistance, delinquent utilities assistance, as well as medical, transportation, education and job training and placement assistance.

Working with the federal authorities, Illinois took more than 10,000 evacuees from New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, and provided Illinois National Guardsmen and other emergency workers to assist with the rescue and cleanup operations in the areas ravaged by the storm.

In the first few months after the tragedy, the State provided temporary housing for hundreds of Katrina guests who came to the state in FEMA-sponsored flights, and it helped connect thousands more with State services ranging from health care to schools, unemployment assistance, job training and referrals, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and much more.

The Illinois Department of Human Services also worked with other State and local agencies, as well as not-for-profit organizations, and private and public institutions across the state to reach out to hundreds of sheltered individuals to offer continuous assistance for those who came to the state in FEMA-sponsored flights or managed to arrive in Illinois on their own.

Mental health crisis counseling, assessments and referrals, and emotional support were among the assistance offered to hundreds of guests through a number of ongoing activities that allowed the State to individually reach out to thousands of evacuees to make sure their needs were being taken care of. Since February of this year, DHS has made over 2,500 contacts through telephone and door-to-door outreach with Katrina evacuees, as well as Help Fairs that have been hosted in Chicago, Harvey, Aurora and East St. Louis.

To date, more than 6,000 evacuees still live in Illinois, with about a third in the Chicagoland area and many others in the Rockford and East St. Louis areas. Most have been able to find permanent housing, either through federally-funded Section 8 arrangements or on their own.

After Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29th, 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. The main efforts undertaken by the State included:

• Opening up the state’s public elementary and high schools, as well as the state’s community college and universities so that hundreds of children could be enrolled and continue their education.

• Deploying nearly 2,600 Illinoisans to help Louisiana respond to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The deployments included 900 firefighters and more than 1,100 National Guard troops.

• Processing unemployment claims on behalf of displaced victims through the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and facilitating job searches and job training.

• Deploying more than 100 State employees to help the Louisiana Department of Social Services process 25,000 evacuees for emergency food stamps, unemployment benefits, temporary housing and other assistance. All totaled, about 300 Illinois State employees representing more than a dozen agencies assisted Hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf Coast region.

• Establishing a hotline to provide Hurricane Katrina victims with immediate assistance regarding social services offered by the State of Illinois, including health care, crisis counseling, food stamps, K-12 public school registration, and services for veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities.

• Sending more than 130 highly trained law enforcement officers from State and local agencies 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.
• Sending 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.

The Governor’s proclamation follows:

WHEREAS, on August 29, 2005, the Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, leaving thousands of people without homes and taking the lives of hundreds more; and

WHEREAS, in the wake of this terrible tragedy, states throughout the nation, including Illinois, as well as nations all across the world provided much needed assistance for the relief, recovery and cleanup operations; and

WHEREAS, with the need to help hundreds of thousands of displaced residents, other states opened their doors to the victims and assisted those individuals and families in getting their lives back in order. Here in Illinois, the outpouring of support from our citizens was wonderful, taking in more than 10,000 people from the Gulf states ravaged by the storm, and providing them with health care, food, shelter, and schools for their children; and

WHEREAS, Illinois’ involvement went beyond providing just emergency care. Anyone displaced by the hurricane who wished to stay in Illinois, stayed, and we continue to provide services for those who need them; and

WHEREAS, on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Illinois takes time to remember this great national tragedy, and pay tribute to those who were killed or displaced in its ravages. We also take this opportunity to commend all those in Illinois who opened their hearts and arms to their brothers and sisters in distress:

THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim August 29, 2006 as KATRINA DAY OF REMEMBRANCE in Illinois, in tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and the compassionate Illinoisans who assisted them in their time of need.


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