FEMA Denies Help for Illinois Tornado Victims

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied requests for disaster aid from two Illinois towns, devastated by the deadly EF-4 tornado that struck Feb. 29.

FEMA determined that homeowners' insurance, local charities, and state funds could cover those requests for assistance.

The storm ripped through the town and surrounding Saline County two weeks ago, destroying 98 homes and damaging 31 others. Seven people were killed.

FEMA analysts say the damage in Harrisburg and Ridgeway does not measure up to requirements for federal assistance.

"We just feel very strongly that our people need help," Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg said Monday.

"Even those who had homeowners insurance, what we're finding is that, okay, they come in, they'll pay for certain things, but the homeowners are going to be out thousands of dollars dealing with this catastrophe," he explained.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., disagreed with the federal agency's decision and called the Illinois damage the worst he's ever seen from a tornado.

"From what I saw there, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed. It seems to me that that number is within grasp. I am going to ask Sen. Mark Kirk for an appeal of this decision," he said.

FEMA's aid calculation is based on state population, which means it needed to find nearly $13 million in damages to award federal disaster aid to those towns.

"Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the damage was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies," FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Quinn said Monday that state officials have begun putting together the appeal.

FEMA also denied disaster aid to residents in several southern and northern Missouri counties hit by the storms; yet aid was approved for homeowners in parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

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