Cook Co. still has a chance to get federal flood relief funds

Updated 1/5/2011 8:26 PM

Cook County might yet recoup some federal funds to cover costs of home repairs after 2008 flooding -- if President Toni Preckwinkle can undo some of the miscues committed under her predecessor, Todd Stroger.

"It's possible," said Marielle Sainvilus, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services, which yanked the Federal Emergency Management Authority funds because the Stroger administration wasn't submitting required documentation.


She confirmed Preckwinkle has a meeting Monday with department officials, where they'll present her with what will be required for release of the funds.

Even if funding is reinstated, it won't help more homeowners get repairs from the flooding, which hit the Northwest suburbs particularly hard. The funding would only go to cover costs of home repairs the county already paid for, Sainvilus said.

"We're only reimbursing the county. They've already paid out," Sainvilus said.

FEMA allotted $10.3 million to the county for flood relief sustained in storms at the end of 2008, but Sainvilus said only $1.7 million of that was disbursed before the state suspended payments months ago.

"The county has to submit to us the invoices. The invoices have to come with backup documentation and prove that this service was actually rendered," Sainvilus said, adding her office had been seeking documentation for months.

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"They just finally dropped three boxes of invoices on our doorstep Nov. 19 -- no documentation -- and just left it up to us to wade through," Sainvilus said.

Preckwinkle took office Dec. 6.

Preckwinkle spokeswoman Jessey Neves said the meeting is intended as "an update on the ongoing process" and to determine what exactly the county needs to do to comply.

"There's no specific money amount," she added. "We're not going in with a bunch of vouchers and saying this is what we want."

In fact, the county might yet determine that some of the money spent on supposed flood relief may not qualify for reimbursement. Carla Oglesby, a top Stroger aide, faces criminal charges amid allegations of improper payments for publicity on the flood-relief program.

Likewise, $80,000 was spent on what was called a party for flood victims at Brookfield Zoo. Sainvilus said that if the county files a voucher for repayment on that, "We're going to deny it."

Neves said Preckwinkle is determined to recoup what the county can. "We're moving forward," Neves said, "and the president is very focused on this."