Manzullo urges FEMA to help Rockford flood victims

With many residents still living in damaged homes without heat, House Small Business Committee Chairman Don Manzullo (R-Egan) urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide vital federal assistance to victims of Rockford’s Labor Day flood who have no means to pay for repairs.

During a committee field hearing in Rockford, Manzullo urged FEMA to reverse course and recommend a “major disaster declaration” to President George W. Bush stemming from the catastrophic flood that ensued after nearly 8 inches of rain dumped on Rockford in a 3-hour period this past Labor Day. The massive flooding, which primarily inundated older subdivisions with low to moderate incomes, affected 768 homes and initially displaced 1,400 residents. More than two months later, 213 damaged homes are still not repaired. City officials estimate the remaining uninsured and unrepaired homes will require $5.5 million in disaster assistance.

“The situation in Rockford is critical. We are entering the cold winter months, and many of our flood victims are still living in damaged homes without heat and without any means to pay for repairs,” Manzullo said. “FEMA is in a position to help these needy residents recover from this terrible storm and rebuild their lives. I implore FEMA to do the right thing and help put our people on the road to recovery.”

Shortly after the flooding inundated Rockford, Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared Rockford a city and state disaster area. Blagojevich appealed to the President for a major federal disaster declaration, which could provide federal assistance to individuals up to $28,200 to repair damaged homes and replace lost personal property. Oct. 20, FEMA denied the request for a major federal disaster declaration. The State of Illinois appealed the decision, and the appeal is pending.

Manzullo called the hearing so FEMA officials could hear directly from Rockford’s flood victims about their dire situations and inability to pay for repairs on their damaged homes. More than 40 flood victims told their stories to FEMA Director of Recovery Jack D’Araujo Jr. and FEMA Region V Director Edward Buikema, who attended the hearing.

“I thank FEMA for coming out to Rockford to hear firsthand the challenges our residents face trying to put their lives back together,” Manzullo said. “Hopefully, FEMA will consider their stories, grant our appeal, and provide the assistance our residents desperately need.”

From the Dec. 20-26, 2006, issue

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