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Cook County, towns appeal for federal aid
Residents whose properties were damages encouraged to fill out form

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by Cynthia Dizikes and John Byrne

Days after torrents of rain flooded the Chicago area, cash-strapped counties and municipalities are appealing to the federal government for money to cover the damages left by the storms.

Officials trying to build a case for federal aid are encouraging residents who suffered storm damage to fill out forms documenting their losses.

On Tuesday, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger signed a proclamation declaring Cook County a disaster area, a day after Gov. Pat Quinn did the same for Cook, DuPage and 10 other storm-battered counties. The declarations are precursors to securing federal aid.

Storm damage in Cook County is expected to exceed $17 million, the threshold for qualifying for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Dave Ramos, executive director of the county's Emergency Management Agency.

Residents who suffered damage in the storm should photograph the losses and fill out a form with their municipality, Ramos said.

Chicago officials on Tuesday asked residents to visit the city's Web site and complete an application documenting their property damage. Damage assessment forms can be downloaded at public libraries, and completed forms can be e-mailed to the city or dropped off at a local alderman's office by Aug. 6.

Such individual documentation "may ultimately determine what assistance, if any, may come from the federal government," said Jose Santiago, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communication.

Residents and business owners are already eligible for low-interest disaster recovery loans to finance repairs.

The flurry of declarations from elected officials followed widespread frustrations by many residents over cleanup and flood control efforts.

At a meeting Monday in Elmhurst, for example, more than 700 people — many irate, a few close to tears — jammed into a local middle school to demand answers from city and county officials.

Chicago officials declined to say when the federal government might respond to their request for assistance, but Ald. Ed Smith, 28th, warned that the process could be lengthy.

"Fill out these forms, but we all know that the state of Illinois has money problems, the federal government has money problems," said Smith. "The money is not going to be immediate and people are still hurting. That's the bottom line."

Meteorologists are predicting that more storms will rumble through the Chicago area this week.

Tribune reporter Sandra M. Jones and TribLocal reporter Annemarie Mannion contributed to this report.

cdizikes@tribune.com

jebyrne@tribune.com


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