The simplest answer: taxpayers. But most of the tax money for the
relief efforts has been paid already, either to the state of
Illinois or the federal government.
In any disaster, including the
flooding taking place in southern Illinois, local cities or towns
are the first to see the costs. Once the costs or additional needs
get to be too much, cities and towns can then ask their counties for
When the counties hit their financial limit, they go to the
state. And then the state of Illinois asks the federal government to
issue a disaster declaration. Once that happens, Illinois can be
reimbursed for 75 percent of the cleanup costs.
Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management
Agency, said Illinois does all that it can.
"The state offers a lot of help," she said. "We can send
sandbags, dump trucks and the National Guard. All of that is
provided without a cost to local communities and counties."
Illinois already has thrown a couple hundred thousand sandbags at
the rising Ohio, Mississippi, Cash and Big Muddy rivers. Thompson
said the state bought the bags with money already budgeted for
disasters. State prison inmate crews filled them with sand, and
trucks from the Illinois Department of Transportation delivered the
sandbags to the flood zone.
"Illinois has a lot of resources on hand -- everything from
trucks to light stands," Thompson said.
Some of that gear was bought with federal grant money, while
other equipment is borrowed from other parts of the state or local
Thompson said there's usually not much talk about paying for the
cleanup until after the threat has faded. By then, the federal
government may have stepped in.
Marty Nicholson with Alexander County's emergency management
office said she hopes the feds show up soon.
"There are so many costs right now. I just hope (we get) a
federal disaster declaration to help pay for all of this," she said.
Nicholson is quick to say that Alexander County is "already deep
in debt" so it can't pay for much. As the only paid employee in the
county's emergency management office, she said she's taking time off
from her other job to do her duty as emergency manager.
"I'm using my vacation days from the Cairo Police Department to
be able to fight these floods," she said.
[to top of second column]
Alexander County can't even pay for meals for the emergency
workers. Nicholson said volunteers are bringing in food.
"Ladies from the local churches down here are doing a fantastic
job of feeding and taking care of us," she said.
The American Red Cross is helping out as well, free of charge.
Sandy Webster with the Red Cross' Little Egypt service center in
Murphysboro said that's the organization's mission.
"We're community-based and ready to respond," Webster said. "And
we are 100 percent funded by donations."
Those donations include more than money. They extend to food,
water and supplies from local businesses. Webster said that's the
best way for anyone to help.
"Four dollars gets someone a comfort kit at a shelter; $5 gets a
blanket; $5 gets a child who may have had to leave all of their toys
behind a new teddy bear," Webster said.
The Red Cross wouldn't hazard a guess what the flood response
effort in southern Illinois will end up costing. But Webster said
individuals wanting to help can go online to
www.redcross.org or head to
the local Red Cross office to make a donation.
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]