The state's request for federal disaster aid for victims of the June 5 tornado has been rejected, Peoria County officials learned late this week.
The decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, however, does not mean business owners in Elmwood - which suffered a direct hit and lost most of its historic business district - are entirely without options for federal funding to help rebuild downtown.
Peoria County Administrator Patrick Urich confirmed Saturday that Gov. Pat Quinn's office has received notification that FEMA will not provide assistance to individuals who were victims of the June 5 storm.
The determination did not come as a complete surprise, in part because relatively few residences were severely damaged by the storm and since a similar rejection was delivered to the Ohio governor June 25. That state suffered six fatalities and lost at least 100 homes from the same storm system.
"It's unfortunate - the commercial district is the heart of any community," Urich said. "I wish that (the decision) would be reconsidered."
But another federal agency, the Small Business Administration, may still be able to provide assistance. Representatives from the SBA could be in Elmwood to survey damage as soon as next week.
That agency may find Elmwood business owners eligible for low-interest loans to help rebuild. Demolition of several condemned structures is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
"(The FEMA rejection) doesn't mean that there won't be any assistance," Urich said.
Elmwood Mayor John Hulslander said Saturday that he'd heard FEMA had denied the request. Like his counterpart in the county, he wasn't all that surprised.
"FEMA money usually goes to residential damage, and we had some of that, but most of our damage was in the central business district," he said.
Hulslander also said that while city officials were hoping for the FEMA dollars, they were not banking on them.
"It's better to hope for it and not get it than it is to plan for it and not get it," he said.
Both the county and the village are considering other measures that can be taken locally to facilitate rebuilding, such as creating an enterprise zone or tax increment financing district.
"There may be some other options we might be able to bring to make it easier to rebuild," Urich said.