The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Senator Kirk, Mayor Crank seek change to FEMA formula

  • A U.S. Senator and the Harrisburg Mayor are hoping to change the funding formula that provides federal assistance following natural disasters.
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  • A U.S. Senator and the Harrisburg Mayor are hoping to change the funding formula that provides federal assistance following natural disasters.
    U.S. Senator Mark Kirk visited Harrisburg Monday and talked about a recently introduced bill to restructure the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s formula for disaster assistance. Kirk was joined by Harrisburg Mayor Ron Crank.
    Harrisburg saw nearly 500 homes damaged or destroyed in the Feb. 29, 2012, tornado with Illinois claiming over $25 million in damage. Senators Kirk and Dick Durbin along with U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis have introduced the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act. The act is intended to ensure consistency by requiring FEMA to give a specified weight to each of the factors considered when determining Individual and Public federal assistance.
    It will also require FEMA to take into accept local economic factors including the local assessable tax base, median income as it compares to the state and poverty rate as it compares to the state.
    In a severe storm or natural disaster, communities in a state, like Illinois, with a large population – more than 12 million people – must incur a relatively higher level of damage than communities in a state with a smaller population. Because this metric is based on statewide population and overall tax revenues, areas located further away from population centers — namely, Chicago — are generally discriminated against.
    "A disaster is a disaster, regardless of what state it happens in," Sen. Kirk said, in a prepared release. "In many other states, the amount of damage done here in that fateful tornado would have easily qualified for Public Assistance. But because FEMA's system is antiquated and slanted against populous states, Illinois was unfairly discriminated against."
    "As Mayor of the City of Harrisburg, I strongly support Senator Kirk’s efforts," Mayor Crank said, in a prepared release. "Having been the victim of a disaster that deeply affected our City, the deadly Leap Year tornado of 2012, we were shocked that, despite the obvious financial aid that was needed by us, we did not qualify under the current FEMA regulations. Senators Kirk and Durbin's bill is very appropriately labeled 'Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act of 2014.' Anything that would help others who find themselves in a similar situation is a good thing."
    Following a disaster, the governor of a state can request three types of assistance:
    Individual Assistance — FEMA considers the ability of state and local entities to address damages. This level also considers the estimated value of uninsured losses. The governor applied for Individual Assistance in 2012, but was denied.
    Public Assistance — FEMA considers the value of damages as compared to the population of the state overall. This meant that the $5.5 million in public damage — costs to the taxpayer as opposed to a private entity — was an estimated $11.8 million short of the per capita damage value required by FEMA.
    Page 2 of 2 - Small Business Administration — Allows the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans to individuals, business owners, renters, or other entities to assist with disaster relief.
    In 2012, the State of Illinois was short of the statewide threshold for Public Federal Disaster Assistance by an estimated $11.8 million; but most of the individual counties hit by the Leap Day Tornado would have met monetary thresholds for assistance.
    "These harmful discrepancies in how FEMA determines which states get disaster aid need to be remedied," Sen. Kirk said. "The Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act will rectify this glaring problem.
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