Saturday, August 21, 2010

Relief now available for flood victims from FEMA

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President Barack Obama quickly approved Disaster Area status for Cook and DuPage counties in response to the series of floods caused by heavy rains and the failure of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to better respond to flood concerns.

Obama's federal designation now opens the door to disaster relief support that could come in the form of grants and low interest loans. This first step is the result of the tremendous work of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security office and its leadership, David Ramos and Kevin Joyce who reached out quickly to residents on July 24 the morning of the flood to let them know that something could be done. In the Town of Cicero, (where I work now as spokesman), Town President Larry Dominick declared Cicero a Disaster Area.

In fact, on order to get Obama to declare it a disaster area and make FEMA funds available, towns and villages had to do so first. That was immediately followed up by Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and then by Gov. Pat Quinn also declaring the region a disaster area. Without those declarations, Obama could not act.

A second essential step was to collect data to support a Federal Disaster Area designation. Cicero, under the leadership of Emo Cundari the Town Assessor, set up a data collection process that begin within hours of the flooding and county support. On Sunday and Monday immediately after the flooding that prior day, more than 75 volunteers were at Town Hall at tables filling out the preliminary damage estimate forms provided by Ramos and Joyce.

Over the two days, the Town of Cicero collected data from more than 5,000 people and homes that suffered damage.

The extent of the damage is noteworthy, too. Although Water Reclamation District President Terry O'Brien was not seen in most of the suburban communities, he did appear on television recently to declare that the lfooding problem was not his problem but blamed it instead on the suburban communities themselves. He asserted in an interview with Channel 7 WLS TV that the sewer systems in the suburban communities are old and aged and can't get the water to the Reclamation District.

Of course, that is ridiculous. The fact is most witnesses will tell you that during the unprecedented rains, the water had no place to go and backed up into streets and homes. And suddenly, after the Reclamation District finally opened the Locks, the water was sucked down the sewer systems like you unplugged a bathtub.

The water dispersal was dramatic in each and every town.

No one town or village is responsible because the flooding was across the region. Water does not sit in a bowl and communities are not bowls. They are linked together by landmass and sewers that connected to the Reclamation District.

IF YOU HAD FLOOD DAMAGE you can and should now immediately act:

If your home had property damage as a result of the recent flooding on July 24, you can begin the process to apply for FEMA relief every day from 7 am until 10 pm starting on Friday August 20. To do so, you can go online to the FEMA web site and complete the necessary application forms 24 hours a day. That web site is That’s You can also begin the process by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. The toll free numbers will operate from 7 am until 10 pm, seven days a week until further notice.

Department of Homeland Security officials credited the Town of Cicero and Town President Larry Dominick for their fast action in beginning the process to assess damage estimates. That data became the basis of President Obama’s declaration.

-- Ray Hanania

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