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Meeting the Needs of Disaster Survivors with the Help of the Whole Community


We are continuing to work closely with the states that were affected by the recent wave of severe storms and tornadoes in the Midwest and South. In response to those storms, the President has approved major disaster declarations in Kentucky and Indiana making federal aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts. This federal assistance can provide funding to help eligible individuals and families recover. In Illinois, we are working closely with state officials on joint preliminary damage assessments to help determine the impacts to local governments and public infrastructure.

While federal assistance is an important step in helping people recover from events like the ones we saw recently, it is not always the best or only alternative. State and local governments have developed robust capabilities to respond to and recover from events. And we rely on the whole community’s participation, including the help of the public preparing for and insuring against the uncertainty of disaster.

The Stafford Act provides the process for a Governor to seek a disaster declaration from the President. By submitting a written request to the President through FEMA, a Governor certifies that the combined local, county and state resources are insufficient and that the situation is beyond their capability to recover.

When FEMA joins the state on joint preliminary damage assessments prior to a request - as we have recently in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia - we are looking at things like assistance that is available from other federal agencies - like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, charitable organizations, volunteers and other private interest groups. It is also important to know that we are looking at damage that would potentially be eligible for FEMA assistance.

As I’ve said before, the level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Ultimately FEMA cannot duplicate benefits like insurance. In fact, insurance is often the first and best way of protecting your family and property from disaster. Depending on the coverage limits, disaster survivors may be made far more whole by their insurance policy than they would from supplemental federal disaster assistance.

Based on the factors I mentioned, FEMA might review a Governor’s request for assistance and determine that the damage is not beyond the capabilities of the county, city and state to recover. If and when this happens, that’s not necessarily the end of the story, in terms of federal government assistance.

The decision means that the state can proceed to work directly with other federal agencies that can help through their own authorities. These agencies include the Small Business Administration, HUD, Department of Agriculture and others, as well as voluntary agencies.

FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. When the whole community comes together to respond to and help recover from these events - neighbor helping neighbor – we can often meet the needs of everyone, even when FEMA financial assistance is not determined to be necessary.

Last Updated: 
06/16/2012 - 14:46


I am sickened and stunned by FEMA's denial of federal aid to the people of southern Illinois. How can this be?

Did your state request FEMA help? FEMA cannot go into your state without your governor's permission.

Susan, why don't you learn to take care of yourself and your neighbors? It should not be the job of the federal government to swoop in and save you or anybody else everytime a severe storm or tornado rolls through. You should be sickened by the fact that want the people of Illinois to be dependent on the federal government. That basically makes them slaves. Take charge of your own life, pick up a shovel or saw, and help your neighbors get their lives back on track. Stop expecting the government to save you.

One step forward, ten steps back=FEMA's reputation.

You are a Republican, right!

FEMA is great. FEMA is not perfect but is there. FEMA is the last line of defense or recovery and augments the local and state government. Can FEMA fund all disasters? The answer is no because it has a budget. It would be great if FEMA could help out in all disasters. What is your state doing for disaster management, mitigation, recovery and response should be the first question. I just did volunteer work in midwest for tornadoes and people took the initiative to recover. Many Hurricane Katrina people, local business, local government did not nothing for their evacuation and recovery and sat back waiting for government to take care of them or what they cheat the system for.

The State has the right to appeal. Then they (STATE/FEMA) take a second look. Who knows, maybe it will still happen.

Same here Susan. I am from Harrisburg, IL which was the hardest hit area of the storm! FEMA, and the federal government have lost a lot of my respect! Apparently, we are seeing something they don't. Thank you for your comment!

Lets send more money to Japan, Kenya, Somolia, Iran, Iraq so forth and so on. Not Southern Illinois that is so terrible this country has gone to shambles as far as helping are own. Actually, lets send all the people on welfare that dont wanna work to Harrisburg and pick up a shovel or an ax and see where that gets them. That probably wouldn,t work either the U.S government would want some kind of tax on weach of the indviduals they got to go there. I better just finish before I get any more mad.

I'd be interested to know how many of the folks in southern Illinois are advocates for further reducing government assistance to low-income families, those with functional needs, and others in our society who find themselves disenfranchised because of any number of factors. Over and over again we see politicians and their constituents who demand federal intervention for disaster assistance when their stance on other type of aid is "I've got mine, go get your own." If one demands that the low income take care of themselves, why not homeowners? This is why there's insurance, and yes there are other federal resources available for disaster-related needs, as Mr. Fugate states in his comments. Illinois is considered a large state per FEMA regulations, and the threshhold for damages is considerably higher than those suffered downstate. It's time for the individual, community and state to step up and take preparedness seriously.

Could it be that the state of IL is broke and can not pay their share of the bill? The Feds will pay a percentage but the state is, also, responsible for their percentage. My guess is they (IL) could not guarantee their portion would get paid.

This is not tornado season. People were probably insured for floods not sudden tornadoes no one expected would destroy 40 percent of their city, including a medical center. Very unfortunate.

Gov. Quinn twice asked and is appealing.

Kentucky, missouri, and northern illinois got fema help in the last year.

I cannot remember the last time that Fema aid was denied. A depressed area with a small population has essential services destroyed and they are less important than the apartment building that was destroyed on the far southern subburbs of Chicago less than 2 years ago. Shameful in comparison, Fema. People will say - they should take care of themselves and I know they will. But private investment will be slow to come because the population is small. Basic health services are already in limited supply. People must travel 30 miles or more to the nearest medical center. Remember the REA that made sure that rural communities had electricity. Private companies don't do that. Look at the cell service map of Illinois and you will see the haves and have-nots. Shameful, FEMA.

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