Springfield State Journal-Register

March 29, 2006

Bush declares Sangamon County disaster area

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Tuesday declared Illinois as the site of a major disaster, ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the Springfield area struck by tornadoes and severe storms March 12.

The disaster declaration also makes federal funding available for affected individuals in Sangamon County.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster.

"People in Sangamon County are still picking up the pieces left by tornadoes that struck the area earlier this month. We appreciate this disaster declaration because it will open doors for grants and loans for the people, businesses and governments that suffered losses from these storms," said Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. "And while we're pleased that assistance to local governments in four other counties also was approved, we will continue to work with FEMA to try to get assistance for people in those areas who are struggling to recover."

Federal funding also is available to state and eligible local governments and certain nonprofit groups on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work or repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the tornadoes and storms in Greene, Logan, Morgan, Sangamon and Scott counties.

Blagojevich also had requested Randolph County be designated, but it wasn't included in Tuesday's White House announcement. Additional designations may be made later pending further damage assessments, the White House statement said.

Local and state governments can receive up to 75 percent of eligible costs.

Last week, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency submitted a $37.2 million estimate of tornado-related damages and expenses in six counties. In Sangamon County, the damage is estimated at $34.1 million, according to IEMA estimates.

About 64 homes were destroyed and another 126 had major damage. About 40 of the homes destroyed were in Sangamon County, IEMA reported. Blagojevich already declared the central Illinois state disaster areas, making them eligible for state assistance.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the federally designated counties can begin applying for assistance Wednesday by registering online at http:// www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) seven days a week.