Members of Congress are making a push to change the formula for federal disaster assistance. This follows not only the denial of federal aid to Washington, Gifford and Brookport following tornadoes last year, but also the denial of aid to Harrisburg after a tornado there in 2012. “There’s a per capita damage rule that FEMA uses, and if you have a community in Central Illinois, because the tornado didn’t hit our huge city, the per capita damage number is not high enough to unlock funds to restore damage to public institutions,” said U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.).
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The current FEMA formula requires damage of $1.35 times the state’s population, or $17.4 million for Illinois. With tornadoes, though, the damage can be intense in one or two small locations, without racking up a large statewide bill, leaving the affected cities high and dry. FEMA has authorized payouts to individuals. In question here is $6.1 million for cleanup costs incurred by cities. The state is appealing the denial. Kirk and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to change the formula after the 2012 Harrisburg tornado, without success. That bill is now being introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville), John Shimkus (R-Collinsville), Aaron Schock (R-Peoria), Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno), Cheri Bustos (D-East Moline), and William L. Enyart (D-Belleville). The bill, if it passes, would be retroactive to 2013.