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FEMA denies storm funds

BY WILL PINKSTON wpinkston@paducahsun.com

Federal authorities denied assistance to local governments in helping recoup expenditures from the deadly tornado outbreak that swept across Illinois in November.

The state lobbied the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $6.1 million for the local governments of nine counties but the agency turned down the request Thursday, stating that infrastructure damage resulting from the storms wasn't severe enough to warrant federal intervention.

A few hours after FEMA denied the request, state officials announced they will appeal the decision to help free up federal money that would cover expenses such as the repair or replacement of government-owned property, debris removal and emergency protective measures.

"While we appreciate FEMA's partnership in helping individuals and businesses recover, I'm disappointed in this decision," Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement.

Following the tornado outbreak on Nov. 17 that killed at least seven people statewide - including three in Massac County - and damaged hundreds of homes, FEMA and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency compiled joint damage assessments for federal aid. That $6.1 million total fell short of the $17.8 million threshold for public assistance that is based on the state's population multiplied by $1.35.

Darrell Habisch, FEMA public information officer, said the public assistance denial does not impact the individual assistance programs that are already helping home owners and small businesses recover losses. Disaster survivors are still encouraged to register with FEMA for aid before the Feb. 7 deadline.

And as far as the public assistance denial, Habisch said: "If the state is to appeal, we're behind them 100 percent. We will provide personnel to do additional damage assessments with state and local partners and they may find additional damage. That's why we encourage them to appeal."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.

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