SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today sent a letter to President Bush questioning the federal government’s lack of quick action on Illinois’ two pending requests for federal assistance to help flood victims. The Governor is seeking assistance for people, businesses and local governments affected by severe flooding in southern Illinois in March and the current flooding along the Mississippi River and in southeastern and northern Illinois.
“The federal government is not moving quickly on Illinois’ requests for assistance to people whose lives have been devastated by flooding,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “More than a month ago we submitted an appeal of FEMA’s denial of assistance for southern Illinois from the flooding that occurred back in March, yet we’ve heard nothing. Last Friday I asked for expedited federal assistance for victims of the current flooding situation because they need help now, not later. Again, we’ve received no response on this very urgent request. We need answers, the people of Illinois are need.”
On June 20, Gov. Blagojevich sent a letter to President Bush requesting expedited federal disaster assistance for the current flooding event, a move that would speed help to people in the form of temporary housing and grants or loans to help with flood losses. He also asked for assistance for state and local governments that have already incurred extraordinary costs for flood response efforts and that expect to spend even more for cleanup and recovery work once floodwaters recede. State officials expected to receive word quickly about that request, but to date have heard nothing.
Following severe flooding in southern Illinois in March, Gov. Blagojevich on April 8 requested federal assistance, which FEMA later denied. After conducting additional damage assessments, the Governor on May 23 submitted an appeal along with documentation showing that 64 homes were destroyed, 164 suffered major damage and another 431 received lesser amounts of damage. More than a month later, Illinois has yet to receive word on whether that appeal has been approved or denied.
On Thursday, staff from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and a representative from FEMA flew over flood-impacted communities along the Mississippi River in a helicopter to get an aerial view of flood damaged homes that are inaccessible by land because floodwaters still remain. IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III said lingering floodwaters will delay the state’s ability to conduct damage assessments that FEMA normally requires before considering a federal declaration.
“We have people who have lost their homes and need immediate help with temporary housing and others who need help picking up the pieces of their lives after the floodwaters recede,” Velasquez said. “It’s heartbreaking to try to explain that they have to wait for assistance until the water goes down and we can assess their damage.
IEMA estimates that more than 1,000 homes have been damaged by floodwaters in the western, northern and southeastern parts of Illinois over the past three weeks.
To date, Gov. Blagojevich has declared 24 counties state disaster areas due to flooding, including Adams, Calhoun, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, Jasper, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, Mercer, Monroe, Pike, Randolph, Rock Island, St. Clair, Whiteside and Winnebago.