The snow might be long gone, but Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management are seeking to link local municipalities and other eligible applicants with federal disaster funding for costs associated with the Feb. 1 snowstorm.
Preckwinkle said she has given her full support to helping municipalities complete the application process. Her staff is currently working with the state and federal government.
On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn asked that 60 Illinois counties, including Cook, be declared federal disaster areas due to February’s blizzard.
Preckwinkle said nearly 600 taxing districts could recoup some costs for protecting the public and cleaning up during this record-breaking storm, she said.
“We made our best effort, the Governor took the next step and now we wait for the federal government to make a determination about potential financial assistance,” she said.
Kevin Joyce, Acting Deputy Director with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said his office took all the necessary steps to comply with state and federal guidelines.
“We went through this process very carefully. The President has made it a priority to reach out to our municipalities and taxing districts to meet the requirements needed for a Presidential disaster declaration,” he said
In Cook County, a total of 284 applicants have reported more than $22 million in storm-related expenses such as overtime for public safety and emergency personnel. According to federal guidelines, the federal grant dollars could equal as much as 75 percent of that total.
For the state to make its request to the federal government, the county was required to demonstrate that taxing districts had incurred more than $17.6 million in allowable costs connected with the storm over a single 48-hour period, Joyce said.
The taxing districts met and exceeded that figure before the Feb. 15 deadline. FEMA will now audit the submissions from all counties seeking assistance to ensure that all costs are permissible.
It’s unknown how this process will conclude, Joyce said.
“Our hope is that Cook County will meet the criteria for a federal declaration and financial assistance will be provided through FEMA. We’re doing everything we can on our end to ensure that the outcome is favorable,” he said.
Taxing districts that failed to meet a Feb. 15 deadline can resubmit their expenses if the President makes a federal disaster declaration.
The 284 taxing districts that completed the required paperwork before the deadline included 110 municipalities and 100 school districts. There are 560 taxing districts in Cook County, including 132 municipalities and 165 school districts.
Joyce said that level of cooperation is an improvement over previous years.
“This process relies on collaboration, we’ve been talking with hundreds of people across the county and we met the threshold required by the state to move this process forward. We’re getting better and we’re going to keep working on ways to improve the information gathering process” Joyce said.
Bsiness owners, homeowners and other individuals are ineligible to make claims through this initiative. In most instances, businesses and homes are insured against these types of losses. County officials encourage business and homeowners who have sustained damages to check with their insurance providers to determine if they can be compensated for snow-related damages, Joyce said.
Additional information is available at the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Website, www.CookCountyHomelandSecurity.org.