Lawmakers look to "redefine" FEMA

Published 04/10 2014 11:42AM

Updated 04/10 2014 11:47AM

ILLINOIS -- State and federal lawmakers want changes to how disaster relief aid is handed out. WCIA-3's Kelsey Gibbs finds out what they propose.

"We need to make sure that communities know that there's support out there. It's not a zero sum gain where it's federal assistance or nothing."

Federal relief assistance was denied for local towns hurt by last year's tornadoes. It's something IEMA Director Jonathon Monken, says needs fixing.

"It really seems like an example of why the federal system of disaster assistance should exist in the first place."

As a result, Congress is proposing changes to the system.

"Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin have identified, accurately, that there's really some areas of the FEMA system that needs to be improved."

The bill would ensure communities hit by disasters are not denied aid because of the population of the state.

"Communities depend upon having some back-up, especially when they lose a third of their tax base."

Until changes are made on the federal level, State Senator Dave Koehler (D) is doing his part in Springfield.

"Kind of think of it as an insurance pool for all communities in Illinois."

Under Koehler's bill, IEMA may provide disaster assistance grants to reimburse response expenses. It's something Monken says is needed for the state.

"What Senator Koehler is doing, which I support strongly, is really trying to develop a permanent state program to provide continuing assistance, recognizing the fact these disasters are not going to stop."

FEMA has provided federal aid for Illinois towns in the past; the most recent, the 2013 floods. Senator Koehler's bill passed the Senate and now heads to the House.

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