Local, federal officials work on stronger tornado response

A large wedge tornado near the town of Rochelle, Illinois on April 9, 2015.  Photo by Scott Prader

A large wedge tornado near the town of Rochelle, Illinois on April 9, 2015. Photo by Scott Prader

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Washington Mayor Gary Manier joined the Marfell family, whose house was destroyed by the November 2013 tornadoes, to view the progress they have made in rebuilding their home. Following the visit and tour, Senator Kirk and Mayor Manier, along with the Marfell family and local first responders, held a town hall meeting to discuss S. 870, The Fairness in Federal Declarations Act, legislation recently introduced that would level the playing field for communities like Washington when determining the need for aid following a natural disaster.

“We have to fix FEMA,” Senator Kirk said. “My bill will make sure disasters are dealt with as they should be by the Federal Government.”

FEMA’s current methodology for determining disaster aid is unfair to small towns in large-population states. Because of Illinois’ population of more than 12 million people, communities in our state must incur a higher level of damage than similar communities in smaller states to be eligible for certain disaster assistance.

Recently introduced by Senator Kirk and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), The Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act would require FEMA to take into consideration local economic factors – such as the local assessable tax base, the median income as it compares to that of the state, and the poverty rate as it compares to that of the state – in order to ensure that communities affected by disaster are not denied public assistance based on a “per capita” indicator. A bipartisan House companion was also introduced by Representatives Rodney Davis (R-Ill.-13), Mike Bost (R-Ill.-12), John Shimkus (R-Ill.-15) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.-17).

Considering the fiscal crisis faced by the City of Washington and its residents immediately following the November 2013 tornado, local and state officials are working more proactively to support Ogle and DeKalb Counties, recently devastated by a tornado that hit on April 9.

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger activated Illinois Gives, which was created by legislation following the Washington tornado. The legislation authorizes the Comptroller to activate the program upon a disaster declaration from the Governor.

Illinois Gives is a program that allows state employees and retirees to make a donation from their paychecks to help the victims of Thursday’s devastating tornados in northern Illinois. Illinois Gives

Following Governor Rauner’s state disaster declaration for Ogle and DeKalb counties, Munger launched the Illinois Gives web portal that allows the state’s 65,000 employees and 180,000 retirees (teachers, judges, and state workers) to direct a payroll deduction to the American Red Cross to help the victims. The portal can be accessed at illinoiscomptroller.com. The site also offers a direct link to the American Red Cross for those who would like to make a donation but are not state employees or retirees.

Munger’s action on Friday was the first time Illinois Gives has been utilized.