Budget impasse leaves flood buyouts in limbo
TAMMS, IL —
Imagine signing a contract to sell your house, but the buyers never pay you for your property.
FEMA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources agreed to buy out 137 properties in Alexander County after the 2011 flood.
FEMA put up $8 million, with the IDNR matching roughly $3 million, but that money is on hold because of the Illinois budget impasse.
The flood of 2011 impacted Alexander County resident Vella Friedman in ways she still has trouble describing.
"When the water finally came over the sandbags and started coming into the house, it was like we just gave up," said Friedman.
After the water receded, Friedman says her house was no longer her home, so she boxed up her belongings and agreed to take a buyout.
"I absolutely don’t ever want to go through it. And, if I can keep from it, I won’t,” said Friedman. “I want to get out of a flood zone."
The buyout papers have been signed, so technically the house is sold, but the Friedmans still haven’t seen a dime of the buyout money.
"We are living in limbo," said Friedman.
Southern Five Regional Planner Crystal Davenport says the Friedman family isn’t alone.
"I get frustrated phone calls from people all of the time, and I just have to listen to them,” said Davenport. “I can’t do anything else."
"We don’t know if it’s going to happen next week, next month, or six months from now, and we just can’t plan," said Friedman.
"If more people would just step up and say ‘We’re tired of this, it’s been four and a half years since the flood,’ then we’ve got to do something because we’ve been in limbo this long," said Davenport.
If a year passes after the signing date, the contract is void, and the homeowners and the state must completely go through the buyout process again.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps filed legislation to allow the IDNR to process the buyouts already agreed upon during the budget impasse.
It will be at least December before a vote can be taken on the bill.