Federal aid uncertain for flooded areas of Ill.

By David Gonzalez

Officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in southern Illinois this week to reassess the water damage to homes and businesses from flooding caused by heavy rains in March. The damage was first examined by both agencies soon after the flooding, but much of the damage could not be quantified because there were buildings still underwater.

The hope is that once the additional damage can be assessed, local governments will qualify for federal assistance. Such assistance had been denied earlier this spring.

“We had been working with local officials to see if there is any additional damage that hadn’t been looked at yet,” said Patti Thompson, a spokeswoman for the state agency. “Back in probably early April, we had submitted to the federal government asking for assistance for businesses. They said it was within the means of state and local funding.”

Thompson said the local businesses were affected the most by the flooding.

“Some counties you had a lot of agricultural land, so there was no property damage. Harrisburg got hit bad because there were many businesses,” she said.

Bill Summers, the fire chief of Harrisburg, said “about 84 businesses were affected and not many homes.”

The estimated damage done to the business district in Harrisburg is between $17 and $20 million, said Bill Ghent, the safety director.

He said that there were many businesses underwater.

“We had a couple nursing homes that had to be evacuated,” he said.

The community worked together to help the businesses get back on their feet after the disaster, Ghent said.

“We didn’t get any help from anyone, we had to do it all ourselves,” he added.

If the local and state governments are approved for federal funding, they will receive a 75 percent reimbursement, but the results of this week’s evaluations will determine whether reapplication is worthwhile.

“To be truthful, we have to wait on the information we get this week to see if we will even make an appeal,” Thompson said.