Friday, April 23


Gov. Blagojevich sends letter
to President Bush asking for
federal disaster declaration    
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[APRIL 23, 2004]  CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter to President Bush on Thursday, urging him to declare several tornado-ravaged Illinois counties a federal disaster area. The counties -- LaSalle, Putnam, Will, Kankakee and the contiguous county of Grundy -- suffered extensive damage and loss after tornadoes and severe storms swept through the region Tuesday evening.

"I respectfully request that you declare an expedited major disaster for the state of Illinois as a result of severe storms and tornadoes on April 20, 2004. Initial reports indicate that over 316 homes have been impacted, including 20 homes destroyed and another 87 homes with major damage in the four most severely impacted counties. Eight deaths and seven injuries are attributed to the storms. There are currently over 100 families whose homes were severely damaged or destroyed due to the storms. The state of Illinois is facing a multibillion-dollar deficit that hinders our ability to fully and completely recover," Gov. Blagojevich wrote.

The governor specifically requested assistance from the federal government in the following areas: individual assistance, including the Individual and Households Program to include the Disaster Housing Program and other needs assistance; public assistance, hazard mitigation assistance statewide, assistance from the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, disaster legal services, crisis counseling and appropriate agricultural programs. Gov. Blagojevich said these programs would help meet the immediate housing and other unmet needs of those affected by the storms.

A federal disaster declaration would allow residents and local governments to qualify for federal assistance in a variety of areas, including:

Disaster housing may be available for up to 18 months, using local resources, for displaced people whose residences were heavily damaged or destroyed. Funding also can be provided for housing repairs and replacement of damaged items to make homes habitable.

Disaster grants are available to help meet other serious disaster-related needs and necessary expenses not covered by insurance and other aid programs. These may include replacement of personal property, as well as transportation, medical, dental and funeral expenses.

Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are available for homeowners and renters after a disaster in order to cover uninsured property losses. Loans may be for repair or replacement of homes, automobiles, clothing or other damaged personal property. Loans are also available to businesses for property loss and economic injury.

Other disaster aid programs include crisis counseling, disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal aid and assistance with income tax, Social Security and veterans' benefits. Other state or local help may also be available.


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Public assistance would be available to help state or local governments pay part of the costs of rebuilding a community's damaged infrastructure. Generally, public assistance programs pay for 75 percent of the approved project costs. Public assistance may include debris removal, emergency protective measures and public services, repair of damaged public property, loans needed by communities for essential government functions, and grants for public schools.

On a tour of the devastation Wednesday, Gov. Blagojevich declared the region a state disaster area, committing significant state funds and resources for recovery efforts. This state assistance includes heavy equipment from the Illinois Department of Transportation and assistance from the Illinois Department of Corrections to help remove debris caused by the tornadoes and severe storms, which could be overwhelming for these communities.

The state mobilized various resources after the tornadoes struck and provided the following services:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources officers worked with helicopter personnel to evaluate and evacuate damaged buildings. They also provided law enforcement officers for door-to-door and general security checks. Starved Rock Lodge is serving as the location for family members to receive information about people who are missing. The department is also providing security services throughout the night.

Illinois Department of Transportation personnel investigated bridge safety and dispatched trucks, end-loaders, heavy equipment and personnel to help in the cleanup efforts

Illinois Department of Public Health sent medical teams to Illinois Valley Community Hospital and is assisting families with counseling.

Illinois State Police officers were dispatched to Granville and Utica to assist with local law enforcement efforts.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the state's emergency response and has staff in every significantly affected area to ensure the state is working hand-in-hand with local officials as well as the American Red Cross.

Office of the State Fire Marshal coordinated the response from fire rescue and emergency medical services.

The Illinois Commerce Commission activated the Illinois Emergency Communications Network to coordinate utility restoration efforts.

[News release from the governor's office]

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