BROOKPORT, Ill. - In announcing $45 million in state disaster aid to help communities devastated by tornadoes last November, Gov. Pat Quinn had a message for residents of Brookport Thursday afternoon.
"It's important that we work together as a family to rebuild and recover," Quinn said at the First Baptist Church of Brookport. "That's what Illinois does. When something bad happens anywhere in our state, we've got to be there to help our neighbors."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funds to residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a Nov. 17 tornado, but the agency turned down requests by local governments to reimburse their costs of the cleanup. An appeal of that decision was denied this week.
After the refusal, Quinn approved the use of state funds to help local governments recover from the tornadoes, which killed eight people statewide. Three of the deaths were in Brookport.
The state's relief package for local governments includes funds from several agencies, including the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Finance Authority, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
According to Quinn, the $45 million will be distributed among affected communities "based on need." The government-to-government (state to local) assistance will be available immediately, he said.
"It's important that people feel hope," he said.
In addition to the announcement of state funds, Larry Bush, president of the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, announced a grant of $230,000 to the Massac-Pope County Recovery Committee, a local group formed to help the relief effort. That money comes from a grant from the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation. Donations can be made to add to that total online at www.sicf.org, the Southern Illinois Community Foundation.
Police Chief John Barr spoke on behalf of the Brookport community.
"We want to thank all of you for the way you've stepped up," he said.
Barr said he knows the release of the funds is the first step in a long process on the road to recovery.
"This is going to be a tremendous relief for us," he said, noting that frustration in getting help after the tornado caused some residents to leave the community. "We need to build this town back to where everybody wants to live in Brookport."
Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.