(WSIL) — Just last week, FEMA denied Illinois’ request for federal assistance for individuals and businesses in the more than 20 counties affected by flooding this past Spring. Now flood victims like those in East Cape Girardeau are stuck in a waiting game.
In August, the state submitted a request for two types of assistance, one which helps residents and businesses, the other to reimburse local governments. Illinois claimed nearly $70 million in flood-related damages, with more than $8 million of that in individual losses.
Now, more than a month since floodwaters have receded, sandbags still line the streets of East Cape Girardeau and in some places, vegetation has taken root. The bags are the most visible signs of the recent flooding, while damage to individual homes stays largely hidden.
Both FEMA and IEMA have long-since inspected homes in the region and for East Cape residents Robert Rhymer and his wife, the recent denial for federal funding leaves them with few options.
"They told a few of us that it should be condemned, but since we’re young, we’ve got a better chance of getting out if something happened," Rhymer said of the inspection of his home. He and his wife struggle to feel safe inside. With structural damage worsening with each time it rains and a constant battle with mold, the couple have few options as recent bids to fix their home have come in above what the house is worth.
"My basement’s sinking, which is causing this side of my house to sink, my garage has already fell about a foot and a half on the one side," said Rhymer. "And, every time it rains – it goes right back in because of all the cracks."
East Cape mayor Joe Aden is hopeful the state of Illinois will win its appeal for federal funding, but he says it is going to take time. He said the village has received assurance help is coming to remove the thousands of sandbags visible throughout and aid is expected to repair infrastructure, but he says the appeal by the state for residents to receive assistance as well will take time.
"I cannot speak for the state of Illinois or FEMA," Aden said of how long the appeal might take, adding, "I have no idea, I know government moves slow. We have some homes that are damaged more than others, and they do need the assistance."
Aden said residents need to have patience, however there’s no guarantee the appeal will be a success, leaving family’s like Rhymer caught in a waiting game.
"Right now, we just need FEMA to come through and if they’re going to buy us out, buy us out so we can move on with our life," said Rhymer.
Local governments and non-profits approved for FEMA funding have until October 19 to file the necessary document and paperwork.