Cook Co. still has a chance to get federal flood relief funds
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
by Ted Cox
Cook County might yet recoup some federal funds to cover costs of
home repairs after 2008 flooding — if President Toni Preckwinkle can
undo some of the miscues committed under her predecessor, Todd Stroger.
“It’s possible,” said Marielle Sainvilus, spokeswoman for
the Illinois Department of Human Services, which yanked the Federal
Emergency Management Authority funds because the Stroger administration
wasn’t submitting required documentation.
She confirmed Preckwinkle has a meeting Monday with department
officials, where they’ll present her with what will be required for
release of the funds.
Even if funding is reinstated, it won’t help more homeowners
get repairs from the flooding, which hit the Northwest suburbs
particularly hard. The funding would only go to cover costs of home
repairs the county already paid for, Sainvilus said.
“We’re only reimbursing the county. They’ve already paid out,” Sainvilus said.
FEMA allotted $10.3 million to the county for flood relief
sustained in storms at the end of 2008, but Sainvilus said only $1.7
million of that was disbursed before the state suspended payments months
“The county has to submit to us the invoices. The invoices
have to come with backup documentation and prove that this service was
actually rendered,” Sainvilus said, adding her office had been seeking
documentation for months.
“They just finally dropped three boxes of invoices on our
doorstep Nov. 19 — no documentation — and just left it up to us to wade
through,” Sainvilus said.
Preckwinkle took office Dec. 6.
Preckwinkle spokeswoman Jessey Neves said the meeting is
intended as “an update on the ongoing process” and to determine what
exactly the county needs to do to comply.
“There’s no specific money amount,” she added. “We’re not going in with a bunch of vouchers and saying this is what we want.”
In fact, the county might yet determine that some of the
money spent on supposed flood relief may not qualify for reimbursement.
Carla Oglesby, a top Stroger aide, faces criminal charges amid
allegations of improper payments for publicity on the flood-relief
Likewise, $80,000 was spent on what was called a party for
flood victims at Brookfield Zoo. Sainvilus said that if the county files
a voucher for repayment on that, “We’re going to deny it.”
Neves said Preckwinkle is determined to recoup what the
county can. “We’re moving forward,” Neves said, “and the president is
very focused on this.”