Quinn Seeks Federal Funds for Flood Victims
August 11, 2010
By Jane Michaels
Mary Dunican arrived a half hour early to Gov. Patrick Quinn's press conference in Westchester Wednesday morning, hoping to invite him across the street to tour her flood-damaged home.
"Yes, I want him to come over," said Dunican, who's lived for 25 years on the 10300 block of Pelham Street. "It's enough to kill you to have this happen twice in one month."
With a folder of basement photos in hand from floods June 23 and July 24, Dunican inched closer and wound up standing almost next to the governor as he announced he will ask President Obama to declare Cook and DuPage counties federal disaster areas eligible for low-cost loans and federal aid.
Flanked by a dozen area leaders and two congressmen who pledged to press for federal support, Quinn urged flood victims to complete data assessment forms, which will be compiled and sent to Washington early next week.
Although the governor didn't have time to visit, Dunican said she was bolstered by the pledge of government cooperation to provide relief.
"I was encouraged. We do need hope badly," she said. "I have every dollar already spent."
Following the July 24 storm, Dunican was trapped in her home by floodwaters for two days before being rescued by her nephew. She lost a white 2005 Chevy Malibu and everything in her basement.
"I had a lovely dining room table and 16 chairs. They took the furnace, hot water heater, washer and dryer, my record player and oceans of tapes that can never be replaced," she said. "All I could do is cry and pray."
Barbara Martin, who lives on the 2900 block of Martin Drive in Westchester, also wanted to make sure the governor knew her ordeal, following her family's rescue on a rubber raft after the July 24 deluge of 6 inches.
"We can't live in our house yet. There's still too much mold," Martin said, adding a second company has been hired to spray so her daughter with a suppressed immune system can return home.
A large rug on the first floor acted as a sponge, soaking up damaging floodwaters above the basement, she said.
Although grateful the family didn't drop their flood insurance after paying off the mortgage a year ago, Martin said she has yet to collect because two companies are negotiating; none of the basement contents are covered. She already shelled out $8,000 to have her finished basement cleared and stripped down to the studs.
"We have to keep cashing our retirement CDs to pay for things," Martin said. "One company wanted a $10,000 down payment before they'd do any work, and we don't have that."
With little prospect of state emergency funds to aid homeowners, area officials with tight local budgets are pinning their hopes on federal aid, which also will be needed for long-term flood control solutions.
"I think the feds are the only ones who can really help," said Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni. "I think we've got the political juices going to get this signed by the president."
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd of Western Springs, said if the Federal Emergency Management Agency declares Westchester a disaster area, individual residents then need to claim the money the federal government will make available.
Quinn said he wants to get the assessment together for the federal government by next week. Westchester Village President Sam Pulia said residents can still fill out data collection forms, which are found on municipal websites. Although Quinn mentioned possible low-cost loans available through the state treasurer's office, Martin said she's had no success in contacting a list of banks provided to Westchester flood victims.
"I tried 10 to 15 of the contacts to get a bridge loan until I get my insurance money, but it didn't work," she said.
Martin said she's also concerned about future flooding.
"My impression was that the retention ponds and the Deep Tunnel would keep us safe. We can't afford to go through this," she said. "I hope they're going to do something so this doesn't happen again."
Westchester residents Debbie and Flo Milas both had flooding in their basements. Flo Milas lost her washer and dryer and said she got about 2 feet of flooding. Even though they both filled out claim forms for FEMA to inspect their homes, they both said they are not frustrated that FEMA hasn't been to theirs as of Wednesday.
"Most likely they're doing people who have more substantial damage," said Debbie Milas.
"I'm grateful I just lost my washer and dryer. The water heater came back. My neighbors are always hit. So I'm grateful I'm not in their position," said Flo Milas.
Debbie Milas said it is very promising that FEMA is out coming to document the flood and she is hoping and praying that the village gets the money they need.
— Kevin Kenealy contributed to this article.
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