IL Appeals FEMA Denial of Household Flood Recovery Funds

Nov 8, 2019

People in Illinois won't get any help from FEMA to recover from this year's record-breaking floods. Unless the federal agency changes its mind after an appeal from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

Michelle O'Neill reports.


Deputy Director Scott Swinford says last month, FEMA denied Illinois' application for Individual Assistance to help 1.4 million residents recover from Illinois and Mississippi river flooding.

Scott Swinford, Deputy Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency
Credit submitted / Illinois Emergency Management Agency

"It is somewhat disappointing to have over 1,400 homes impacted like this and have the dollar amount of damage, over $8 million worth of damage like we did, and have no idea why the individual assistance didn't occur."

Iowa and Missouri already received FEMA approval for individual assistance. And Swinford says Illinois' application included plenty of information demonstrating the effects of the disaster, including unemployment. 

"It might be the roads around them. And that fact that it's causing pain to the family because they can't get to the grocery store faster. They have to drive an extra hour and a half to get to the doctor, you, know, those type of things.

Port Byron, again in your area,  had 28 homes, I believe, that had irreparable damage done to their septic systems. Those kind of things we pointed out to make sure that they fully understood."

Swinford says FEMA's denial makes no sense when Illinois works hard to protect people and property from disasters, and is a leader in flood mitigation. "As we work to remove the risk and move people away from those situations that could put them in peril later, we do so at the risk of making ourselves unqualified for federal assistance in the future."

The individual assistance application is one of the first that FEMA has considered after adopting new rules about how to evaluate such requests.

In September, President Donald Trump granted Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker's request for a federal disaster declaration. It includes 27 counties in Illinois, including the Quad Cities area. That allows local governments and some nonprofits to apply for federal disaster funds. Lee County was later added to the list.