Koehler bill would provide tornado relief

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A bill that would assist cleanup efforts of those who were victims of the Nov. 17 tornado that ripped through central Illinois has passed the Illinois Senate and is now in the House.


The bill, proposed by State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, would allow the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to reimbursement local units of government for the costs of cleanup work, including in Pekin, East Peoria and Washington. It further would allow that agency to make assistance available after future natural disasters.


This bill would help make up for the decision by the federal government disaster agency to not provide any financial assistance even though thousands of homes were destroyed or heavily damaged by the tornado that killed two and injured many others.


“The people who live in these communities relied on their local governments to clean up after these storms and help make their towns habitable again,” Koehler said. “Clean-up work is expensive, though, and now the bills are coming due. At the same time, the tornado damage has reduced the tax base in those communities. They’re facing serious budget challenges.”


Municipal, county, township, school district and community college governments would be eligible to apply for assistance under Koehler’s plan. In order to qualify, they must be in a declared disaster area and be able to prove that they paid to remove debris from public property, for search and rescue missions, to provide emergency medical services or for overtime for local emergency responders.


“The November 17 tornadoes were a horrific tragedy, which will scar central Illinois for years to come, however; as these communities continue to pick up the pieces they need to have the reassurance that  help will be provided,” said State Senator Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, a chief co-sponsor of the legislation. “It is clear that sometimes state level authorities will have to step in when the officials in Washington, D.C. fail to declare a federal disaster area. We are working to ensure that our neighbors are not left behind in times of severe natural disasters.”


The bill is being sponsored in the Illinois House by State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.


Koehler’s office said there is a likelihood the House will attach an amendment to the bill, the details of which were being negotiated. If passed by the House with an amendment, it would have to go back to the Senate for a vote on the amendment.




About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).