BELLEVILLE, Ill. — A federal agency upheld its decision to deny financial assistance to Illinois residents and business owners affected by historic flooding despite granting the state public aid.
In September, FEMA determined the springtime flooding that spanned nearly 130 days along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers did not warrant individual assistance. But the federal government did approve the state’s request for public assistance, allowing local governments, churches and nonprofits to be reimbursed for flood-fighting expenditures and repairs to infrastructure.
Due to federal rules, the state is not allowed to submit another appeal. But a different option allowing residents to take out loans from the government may be possible.
Following FEMA’s decision last week, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is requesting a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration to give people the option to apply for low-interest, long-term loans.
“While we are extremely disappointed that Illinois did not qualify for Individual Assistance funding, we will not give up fighting to provide resources to the citizens of Illinois,” Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s acting director, said.
The SBA recently awarded more than $1 million worth of loans to Granite City after flash flooding in the city left many residents and business owners with mounting expenses and in need of financial assistance.
Tony Falconio is Madison County’s emergency management agency director, who helped SBA with their work in Granite City. He said the loans are helpful for residents and business owners trying to get back on their feet.
“Yes, it is a loan but it’s definitely a great alternative to paying out of your own pocket to repair your home,” Falconio noted.
Falconio said FEMA’s decision is disheartening. “Obviously, I’m very disappointed in the denial.”
Although Illinois was denied individual assistance funding, Missouri was not. Falconio found this odd, noting the similarities between the flooding.
“It kind of seems like its the same flood but one state gets their request and another doesn’t,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers and we probably never will as to why, but again its disheartening and its disappointing.”
Tate-Nadeau said IEMA will continue working to change how FEMA decides who can get individual assistance.
“We are committed to working with our federal delegation to encourage FEMA to change the eligibility requirements of the Individual Assistance program that hurts states like Illinois,” she said. “In the meantime, we will work with our state and federal partners to identify any other available resources.”