Quinn, Davis Defend State's Flood Assistance Program

By Christian Farr and BJ Lutz
|  Wednesday, Sep 1, 2010  |  Updated 10:15 PM CDT
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Hundreds of people lined up for blocks Wednesday, waiting to get financial assistance in the wake of the flooding that ravaged the area in late July.

Hundreds of people lined up for blocks Wednesday, waiting to get financial assistance in the wake of the flooding that ravaged the area in late July.

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Despite questions of the proof residents need to submit in order to receive flood assistance benefits, at least two state leaders say the program is being managed effectively.

"I think it's very difficult in such a short period of time, to put in play and in force the very same requirements that exist for FEMA assistance," said Rep. Danny Davis during the opening of a new Federal Emergency Management Administration disaster relief center in Chicago's Austin neighborhood.

Since Monday, the Illinois Department of Human Services has been offering flood relief assistance through its food stamp program known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's all meant to help those who experienced flood damage from the torrential rains that swept the area in late July.

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

"I had to throw out a lot of things. I had to replace a lot of things," said one man waiting in line outside an aid office in Melrose Park.

More than $2.4 million worth of electronic food stamps were handed out on Tuesday, WLS-TV reported, adding that of those who applied, 5,691 households were approved for benefits. Just 58 were denied.

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.

No proof of flooding damage is needed.

"As with any system, somebody could lie and give us misinformation, and they could defraud the system and there are severe penalties for doing so," said DHS spokeswoman Jennifer Hrycyna.  Those penalties include disqualification from the LINK program, fines and jail time.

Still, Gov. Pat Quinn said the program was being handled well, and said the lines that have stretched for blocks since Monday are indicative of the need.

"We brought in extra managers, extra workers and we're trying to keep up with demand," Quinn said.

While the state is doing its part through the SNAP program, the Federal Emergency Management Administration is helping others get their part of the $72 million in federal funds so they can put food on their tables and fix their homes.

"We need this assistance because right now people are going through a lot of unemployment and that sort of thing, and you just don't have the extra money to do the cleanup," said one woman filing a claim at the new Austin center.

The FEMA office in Austin will be open daily with no closing date yet set. The SNAP program through Illinois' Department of Human Services ends Friday at 4 p.m.

Illinois DHS: AID Requirements, Office Locations

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