WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today that President Bush has authorized the release of federal disaster funds to help meet the recovery needs of Illinois families and businesses ravaged by the string of deadly tornadoes that hit the northern part of the state earlier this week.
Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the President ordered the aid under a major disaster declaration issued immediately after receiving FEMA's analysis of the state's expedited request for federal relief. The declaration covers damage to private property from severe storms and tornadoes that began on April 20.
"President Bush knows how devastating these storms have been and has acted quickly so that people get the help they need to recover without delay," said Brown, who toured the heavily damaged town of Utica this morning. "The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA will do all that we can to make sure that everyone in need of assistance receives it as fast and efficiently as possible."
Following the declaration, Brown designated the counties of Kankakee, LaSalle, Putnam and Will eligible for federal aid to stricken residents and businesses owners.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
In addition, Brown said federal funds will be available to the state on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that damage surveys are continuing and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
Lee Champagne of FEMA was named by Brown to coordinate the federal relief effort. Champagne said those who sustained losses in the counties designated for aid to affected residents and business owners can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.