Victims of record flooding in the Chicago area this summer will not be getting help from a federal disaster declaration, officials announced Monday.
In a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner last week, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long denied the governor’s request for aid for Cook, Lake, McHenry and Kane counties.
“Based on our review of all the information available,” Long wrote, “it has been determined that the damage from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments, and voluntary agencies.”
After checking with county officials, the state determined that no additional damage was reported beyond what already was submitted in the federal request, so Illinois is not expected to appeal the denial.
Rauner had asked President Donald Trump for the major disaster declaration on Aug. 31, after the state had requested extra time to submit its request. In contrast to Illinois’ rejection, the Trump administration on Oct. 7. approved a major disaster declaration for aid in 11 counties in western Wisconsin that were flooded at about the same time, making federal money available for local governments there.
In Chicago’s suburbs, torrential rains caused flooding from mid- to late July, and the governor declared it a state emergency at the time. Record high crests overflowed the Des Plaines River at Gurnee and Lincolnshire and the Fox River at Fox Lake and Algonquin.
The floods damaged more than 3,200 residences, including 244 with major damage, state officials reported. Lake County suffered by far the most damage, with 2,400 homes affected, 236 of those suffering major damage. The state did not estimate the financial cost of the damage.
Illinois requested the assistance for individuals because FEMA has a program to provide such aid, but the state does not.
Instead of federal grants, Rauner is now asking for low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for the victims in Cook, Lake and McHenry counties. Kane County is not contiguous with Lake, which was the only county to meet the SBA standards, so Kane was not included in the request, state officials said. If the loans are approved, individuals may also apply.
“Many people are still working to recover from these devastating floods,” Rauner said in a news release Monday. “These low-interest loans could speed up that process and help people get back on their feet.”
The criteria for SBA assistance is relatively low. To qualify, at least 25 homes and/or businesses in a county must suffer major, uninsured losses of 40 percent or more.
Illinois officials never requested flood aid for local governments this year because it did not meet the minimum threshold of $18 million in costs.
Since the flooding in Illinois, Trump has declared federal disasters for victims of much more severe damage from hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico and from wildfires in California. Officials could not say whether that played a role in FEMA’s denial in Illinois.
Elmhurst has spent nearly $30M to control flooding, but many homes are still in danger »
‘Something is changing’: Lake County residents bring concerns to floodproofing expo »
Arlington Heights residents billed for first stormwater utility fee to fund flood control projects »