Dick Durbin, Mark Kirk

In this Nov. 25, 2013 photo, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., left, and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speak at a joint news conference in Chicago. On Capitol Hill, where the partisan divide runs so deep it shut down the government, it can be unusual for members of opposing parties to have close relationships. Both men say they’ve always had an amicable relationship. But their friendship truly solidified after Kirk suffered a stroke last year and they began a series of what the junior senator calls “heart-to-hearts” about how they could do their jobs better by working together. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

M. Spencer Green

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois on Tuesday called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fix the funding formulas they say unfairly put downstate Illinois communities at a disadvantage after a disaster.

Durbin, a Democrat, and Kirk, a Republican, said after the agency should consider the legislation they introduced after the denial of both individual assistance and public assistance to Southern Illinois communities including Harrisburg and Ridgway in 2012.

More recently, Illinois in November sustained tornado damage in several counties — Massac and Washington among them.

Although more than $12 million in federal aid has been approved to help people and businesses affected by the November severe storms, Gov. Pat Quinn’s request for public assistance to cover the repairs or replacement of infrastructure and other local government costs was denied last week.

In April 2012, Durbin and Kirk introduced the Fairness in Federal Disaster Declarations Act, which they say would ensure consistency and fairness to the FEMA’s disaster declaration process.

The act would require FEMA to give a specified weight to each of the factors considered when determining which communities are eligible for the two types of federal assistance, individual and public.

It also require FEMA to take into consideration local economic factors including the local assessable tax base, the median income as it compares to that of the state, and the poverty rate as it compares to that of the state.

Although FEMA has never revealed an exact formula for determining a disaster declaration, FEMA has confirmed that it considers six factors to determine eligibility for both individual assistance and public assistance, the senators said in a news release. The relative weight of each factor remains unknown.


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