• Michael McDevitt
    NOV 22, 2023

    Federal disaster declared in parts of Cook County following September storm

    County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, pictured in October, declared a local disaster following the flooding in September in parts of Cook County. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    President Joe Biden on Monday approved a disaster declaration for parts of Cook County that experienced severe flash flooding in September, opening additional avenues to receive financial assistance for those affected in addition to existing state and county assistance. 

    The federal assistance now available as a result of Biden’s declaration includes “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a news release.

    Assistance will also be available on “a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide,” FEMA said. 

    The County Department of Emergency Management and Regional Security (EMRS) aided recovery efforts from the storm and monitored how various municipalities and areas were affected, the county said. EMRS, which did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Line, continues to “coordinate recovery efforts and provide technical assistance and support in conducting damage assessments at the municipal level,” the county said in October.   

    The storm resulted in more than 1,200 reports of damage to homes and businesses, the county said. Biden’s disaster declaration came after County Board President Toni Preckwinkle declared an emergency and after the majority of the Illinois congressional delegation requested a federal declaration in a letter earlier this month. 

    Preckwinkle in October declared an emergency in response to the storms — which dropped six inches of rainfall in less than 12 hours in parts of the county Sept. 17. Burnham, Calumet City, Dolton, Harvey and South Holland were the municipalities that were hit with the most damage. 

    “My administration is committed to working closely with state and federal partners to provide more information to impacted residents as it becomes available in the coming days,” Preckwinkle said in a news release Monday.    

    The federal government said it has designated Waddy Gonzalez as the federal coordinating officer for recovery operations in the affected areas, adding that “additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments,” according to the FEMA news release. 

    The news of a federal declaration comes just a week after the County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of a Disaster Response and Recovery Fund as part of its $9.26 billion annual budget for 2024.  

    Related: County board approves $9.26B budget for 2024, including new $100M disaster fund 

    The fund will be used to respond to disasters that have received official declarations from the county board president, governor or U.S. president, according to the budget amendments creating the fund. 

    In 2024, the newly created special purpose fund will receive $100 million from the unassigned Fiscal Year 2022 General Fund balance. In future years, the county will be able to appropriate up to $50 million annually to the disaster fund. 

    While the vast majority of the fund will be used in the next year to cover the cost of migrant care, $10 million will be available in 2024 “for other Cook County disaster response and recovery events that may transpire” in the next year. That could be helpful, as commissioners have said it can sometimes take longer than needed for federal assistance to become available following a disaster.

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