The declaration focuses on seven Illinois counties hit hard by flooding that followed heavy storms last month. People who had flood damage from storms between July 22 and August 7 and live in Cook, DuPage, Stephenson, Ogle, Winnebago Carroll or Jo Daviess Counties are now eligible to apply for federal assistance. Click here to apply for aid
While flood victims can expect federal reimbursement for some of the damage, they won't receive aid for all damage.
Mary Dunican of Westchester, Ill., an elderly widow who had to strip her basement down to the walls, lost her air conditioner, washer and dryer and countless other belongings. She will be allowed to file a claim with FEMA and within 10 days, inspectors will come out. They promise to send out reimbursement checks about two weeks after that.
" Thank you, God, that somebody is helping because I do need help really bad. I do," said Dunican. "I have never seen water in the house, never."
The first of several sessions was held in nearby Broadview informing flood victims that they now need to file claims online or over the phone with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The feds cover only what they deem "essential household items" not covered by insurance. Things like: A furnance, air conditioner, washers and dryers, kitchens, or removal of mold.
They won't pay to restore a workout room, secondary bedrooms or televisions, for instance.
"Disaster assistance wasn't designed to cover all your losses," said FEMA spokesperson Gene Romano. "You can't put a price on family heirlooms, but it does help you begin the recovery process."
Officials did not provide details of how much money flood victims can expect. It will be case by case analysis.
"They really didn't go into details of how much money anybody could.... see whatsoever. It's gonna be based on a case-by-case analysis by them," said Sam Pulia, the mayor of Westchester. He said the amount will likely not be anywhere close to what people actually lost.
Terry O'Brien, who manages storm water runoff in his role at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, had a word of caution Thursday night: until cities and towns invest in improving sewers, more floods are possible.
"Go throughout the U.S. - we've neglected our infrastructure, and if you can't get water to us, we can't do anything with it," said O'Brien.
Federal disaster comes in a variety of forms. While the government does send out actual checks for what the federal government deems essential needs, there is also opportunity to get low interest loans.