Tornado victims will get federal aid, local governments waiting to apply


Kendall Downing

MASSAC COUNTY, Ill. - Storm victims in Pope and Massac Counties now qualify for disaster aid from FEMA. President Obama approved the disaster declaration on Tuesday.

The first thing people need to do is register with FEMA. You can do that online here.

Have your name, social security number, and a daytime phone number handy. FEMA will want to contact you soon and take an in-depth look at your property.

Storm victims are eligible for grants that cover costs of home repair, damaged items, and even disaster-related medical expenses, but first FEMA will check to see your level of insurance.

"Do this all quickly. The sooner you register, get into the system, settle with your insurance company, the quicker you may receive assistance from FEMA if you qualify," said Don Jacks with FEMA.

FEMA is in the process of setting up an operations center in Springfield. It's likely they will open a help desk locally in Massac County in the coming days.

Meanwhile, local governments are waiting to see if they will get financial help from FEMA to cover their labor costs. IEMA hasn't applied for public aid statewide yet, but a spokesperson said they plan to start in Massac County next week.

As cleanup continues in Brookport, Massac County Sheriff Ted Holder is counting receipts and timesheets.

"We've been preparing for it the last week," he said.

He spent $3,000 last Sunday in overtime wages alone, and deputies worked extended shifts through the week.

"Everybody knows Massac County is not very well off anyway financially, so any dollars that we can get back is going to help the county," said Holder.

Overtime isn't his only concern. More miles on the road means more gas. One vehicle's in a body shop getting repaired because deputies took it off-road trying to find tornado survivors.

IEMA will look at how much local governments had to spend for recovery and cleanup. In Massac County, the threshold is roughly $54,000. Statewide, it's $17.8 million. If the state of Illinois meets that amount, FEMA can offer public aid.

Brookport Police Chief John Barr said he operates on a shoestring budget anyway, and thanks to the tornado, it's in knots.

"Something like this will eat it up real quick," he said.

Barr's hoping for FEMA's help.