Flood Victims Offered Aid Through Friday

By Christian Farr and BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010  |  Updated 10:00 PM CDT
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<a title=Ald. Emma Mitts (37) said she expects as many as 20,000 people will receive assistance from FEMA from her ward's public aid office. Some residents, she said, have received as much as $800." />

Ald. Emma Mitts (37) said she expects as many as 20,000 people will receive assistance from FEMA from her ward's public aid office. Some residents, she said, have received as much as $800.

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Through Friday, residents of seven counties may obtain financial assistance in the wake of the flooding that ravaged the area in late July.

The federal funds are part of the United States Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and are being handed out by the Federal Emergency Management Association and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

"They're trying to get whatever they can to try and put their lives back together. They were already struggling, so now you just need food on the table," said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who helped get the work out to her constituents about the aid. 

She said she expects as many as 20,000 people to get funds at the Humboldt Park office alone.  Some people, she said, were getting vouchers worth as much as $800.  Others were getting $40 or $50.

The money is deposited on LINK cards for food-related expenses.

Under a hot August sun, hundreds of people on Tuesday waited in line outside Illinois Department of Human Services offices in Chicago and nearby suburbs. Several people were overcome by the heat and were treated by paramedics.

The lines were ultimately shut down and those waiting were given tickets allowing them to return Wednesday.

To qualify for the aid, residents must live or work in one of the designated disaster areas and had damage to their home or business, had disaster-related expenses not reimbursed, or had a loss or reduction of income between July 22 through Aug. 20.

Victims are required to only provide proof of their identity and proof of residency or employment in one of the designated disaster areas, leaving some to question the fairness of the assistance.

"Whenever people hear about something they think is free they're all going to come out," said Patricia Munoz of the Illinois Dept. of Human Services.  She oversees the emergency food stamp program and concedes that money is essentially being handed out on the honor system.

Anyone found to be committing fraud with the program may be disqualified from the LINK program and face fines and jail time.

Illinois DHS: AID Requirements, Office Locations

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