Shimkus, Kinzinger aim for equitable FEMA assistance with bill

A group of Illinois lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation on Thursday to make the FEMA disaster declaration process more equitable after a request for public assistance in southern Illinois was denied after storms ripped through the region in November.

Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) were among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act of 2014.

“Downstate Illinois is disadvantaged when disasters strike, due to our population upstate,” Shimkus said. “This legislation helps to address that problem and would allow communities like Gifford and Brookport, who were hit by tornadoes last year, a chance to be eligible for FEMA Public Assistance. A million dollars to Chicago may not matter much, but it does to my constituents.”

The measure would give FEMA a clearer, more substantive formula to evaluate disaster areas by assigning specific weight to a number of factors already used by the agency.

The measure would also add new economic factors for the agency to consider when determining whether or not a disaster area should receive assistance.

“When a disaster hits a small town, it affects everybody because of the close ties of the community, yet we see these towns being penalized due to an unfair formula that favors bigger cities,” Kinzinger said. “Our formula for distributing federal disaster resources should be based on where the need is greatest, not arbitrary population numbers, and this legislation does just that.”