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posted: 5/7/2013 9:28 AM

Editorial: Expedite federal help for flood victims

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

The floodwaters are receding and what's left behind in some communities across the region isn't pretty. Muck, thousands of used sandbags, soggy carpeting, wet drywall, damaged furniture and appliances.

And lots of uncertainty.

Uncertainty among homeowners, most of whom don't have flood insurance, staring at expensive repair bills and wondering how they will be able to afford to put their homes back together again.

Uncertainty among local governments trying to pay flood costs not included in tight budgets.

Last week, crews from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agencies, among others, walked through neighborhoods hard hit by flooding, including Des Plaines, Lisle, Lincolnshire and Fox Lake, to start the damage assessment process. This will eventually help determine whether the federal government issues a disaster declaration.

Local governments have already submitted their flood costs, and it's a multimillion-dollar tab. Private and public costs are considered separately. It will likely take weeks to get answers.

We know officials understand the enormity of what many in our region face, and we urge them to work quickly to expedite the process and issue the declaration. It is essential for governments, homeowners and businesses to be able to obtain grants and low-interest loans.

Ultimately, homeowners could be eligible for loans of up to $250,000 for flood repairs and businesses for $2 million. Governments can recoup 75 percent to 80 percent of their costs. These programs represent significant help.

From where we sit, the need looks clear.

Lake County has reported some 4,500 damaged properties, including more than 600 flooded homes in Fox Lake.

There were 2,000 damaged homes and businesses in Des Plaines, many on Big Bend Drive.

Flooding damaged 300 properties in Wheaton and another 403 in Lisle.

McHenry County reported some 200 homes affected by floodwaters.

Governments in Lake and DuPage counties appear to have met their damage threshold to qualify for federal money, each reporting costs approaching $5 million.

Those numbers throughout the region are likely to rise as the cleanup continues and more damage is discovered.

But numbers alone don't tell the stories of people trying to cope.

People like Diane Lyons whose water heater, furnace and air conditioner were ruined by floodwater in her Lisle house. All the drywall and carpeting has been removed from her den. She has been staying with a friend.

Her homeowner's insurance won't pay for the repairs and she doesn't have flood insurance.

"I am hoping FEMA will help," she said.

So are we. And soon.

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