(KTVI-FOX2now.com)- FEMA has denied federal disaster aid to southern Illinois and Missouri.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn requested federal help for five Illinois counties; but the feds turned down that request. Saying the damage was not beyond the capabilities of state and local governments to handle.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon made the request for Adair, Barry, Barton, Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Cedar, Dallas, Daviess, Laclede, Linn, Madison, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Scott, Stoddard, Stone and Taney. These counties were impacted by the severe weather on Feb. 28-29.
Gov. Nixon gave the following statement:
“A major disaster declaration would have made additional assistance available to Missourians as they recover and move forward from this round of severe weather. I went to southern Missouri and saw the serious property damage to homes and businesses, and the places where Missourians lost their lives. While this decision is disappointing, we’ll continue at the state level to provide the critical resources, assets and personnel that are necessary to help these affected communities recover and rebuild.”
Seven people died in the EF4 tornado in Harrisburg, Illinois on February 29th. Three deaths were reported in Missouri.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is very upset over the decision and plans to appeal the decision.
The decision left locals in Harrisburg, IL stunned.
“I have seen all of it and it is really in bad shape, and we need help,” storm victim Sandra Clayton said. And she’s one of the lucky ones. She had insurance and is going to have her home rebuilt.
The same cannot be said for her friend Agnes Hopkins. Hopkins home suffered significant damage from the February 29th twister. If FEMA offered help, uninsured storm victims like Hopkins would have a chance of rebuilding. Without it, she says she’s out of luck.
“Right now I’m just getting ready to sell my property and have the house condemned and have it torn down,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”
The city’s mayor, Eric Gregg, says there are plenty of stories like that Hopkins’. He says he has plenty of questions for federal officials who made the decision.
“I think we definitely are owed those answers,” he said. “I think we need to find out how this decision was arrived upon, who made this decision, and why. I’ve got a lot of people I’m gonna have to go out and answer to.”
About three-hundred homes were damaged or destroyed in Harrisburg. Seven people were killed by the storm. Gregg says FEMA’s assertion that state and local officials can work together with volunteers to get the work done is simply false.
“As mayor of this community it’s my mission and my goal to take care of our citizens, to try and make them whole again. And given this today, the answer we have right now, we’re not gonna be able to make some of our people whole.”
Officials hope the White House will intervene, but Monday there were no signs of help coming from Washington.
Asked about the situation, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “FEMA has a lot of regional offices, a lot of presence on the ground in these affected states and the evaluation process continues and our efforts at the federal level to assist those states that have been affected by these storms will continue.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn joined a chorus of politicians from the state saying they will put heat on FEMA to change their decision.
“I met with local officials, spent time with residents and saw firsthand the devastation and damage caused by the tornado in Southern Illinois,” Quinn said. “FEMA underestimated the impact this deadly tornado had on small towns like Harrisburg and Ridgway. We have already begun work on our appeal of this decision in order to secure federal assistance.”
Mayor Gregg also insists it’s not a done deal.
“No is not always no. We’re gonna find a way to keep pushing and hopefully get this decision reversed,” he said.
Residents say if those FEMA officials are still in town, they’re not likely to get a warm reception.
“Well, I’d probably run ‘em off (if they came to my door),”Clayton said, “but I would tell ‘em I think it’s pretty bad when they don’t want to help people in a disaster like this.”
As for Hopkins, she finds herself faced with starting over at the age of 62, something she never anticipated.
“No. No. I pretty well though I had my home and everything was fine, but it just didn’t turn out that way. Just didn’t turn out that way. All you can do is pray about it. It’s all you’ve got left.”
IL. Gov. Pat Quinn's Response: IL Gov. Appeal of FEMA Denial Statement