Gov. offers services to hurricane victims

CHICAGO—Stepping up his efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich ordered his state agencies to make additional services available to both displaced victims currently housed in Illinois, and to the relief efforts being conducted in the Gulf Coast states.

Blagojevich has directed the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to help displaced victims housed in Tinley Park and Alton process unemployment claims and facilitate job searches and job training. The governor has also asked banks and thrifts in Illinois to help victims open checking accounts and get access to other basic financial services. Additionally, the governor will send up to 100 state employees to Louisiana to help officials process services to citizens in the more remote areas of the state.

“Displaced victims have lost their homes, their possessions and their jobs,” Blagojevich said. “Our help to them cannot be limited to housing, medical care, clothing and food. We have to do everything we can to get them back on their feet, and that includes helping them with their unemployment claims, and assisting them in finding jobs here. Victims also need basic financial services, like opening a checking account and reestablishing credit, and we’re asking financial institutions in Illinois to give them a hand.”

IDES employees will work with Central Management Services (CMS) staff to set up remote computer stations in the state facilities in Tinley Park and Alton, where the first displaced victims to arrive into Illinois have been housed. Through these remote stations, IDES will help individuals process unemployment claims and receive timely and useful information about job opportunities in Illinois.

Since the onset of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, IDES has been working with its sister agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi to take claims from individuals dislocated by the Hurricane and the flood. IDES has processed these first claims through its Moline branch office.

Responding to the governor’s direction, up to 100 state employees will travel to Louisiana this weekend to help the Louisiana Department of Social Services provide services to victims in hard to reach areas of the state. CMS Director Paul Campbell has asked other agency directors to seek volunteers for this mission.

The majority of the volunteers will be clerical employees, with the remainder including security personnel, information technology specialists, drivers and mechanics.

Due to the lack of basic amenities in the state, the Illinois contingent will take along provisions to be totally self-sustaining for the entirety of their deployment, which could last up to two weeks. Besides food, water, tents and portable toilets, the groups will take along generators, computers and other office supplies.

Blagojevich has also directed the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDPFR) to reach out to state-chartered banks and thrifts and ask them to provide free check cashing, eliminate ATM services fees and establish checking and saving accounts for displaced victims now residing in Illinois. He also asked the Illinois Department of Revenue to extend filing deadlines to taxpayers from counties damaged by Hurricane Katrina and who owe Illinois taxes, until Oct. 31, 2005.

This week, Illinois has received more than 300 displaced victims from the Gulf Coast states in Chicago and the East St. Louis area. Individuals and families, upon arrival, have received immediate medical care and have been transported to state-provided housing in the Tinley Park and Alton areas. Blagojevich announced Sept. 4 Illinois is ready to receive as many as 10,000 displaced victims, and has called elected officials, community leaders, not-for-profit organizations, religious institutions and social service providers to match the State of Illinois’ coordinated relief effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

From the Sept. 14-20, 2005, issue

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