Mayor Johnson, local officials urge Cook County flood victims to apply with FEMA for federal funding

Thursday, August 17, 2023
Mayor Johnson, local officials urge flood victims to apply for federal funding
Local and federal officials held a press conference Monday to urge those impacted by recent floods to register with FEMA.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and other government leaders are urging Cook County residents who were affected by heavy flooding in early July to apply with FEMA in order to access federal relief funds.

Residents were eager for news about help coming from the federal government as President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Chicago and Cook County this week.

Local and federal officials held a press conference Monday to urge those impacted to register with FEMA.

"Do not forget October 16th is the deadline," Johnson said. "Use your application, use that number and know that we are not going to leave anybody behind in the city of Chicago."

"I would urge everyone to follow the guidelines," Ald. Emma Mitts said. "If they tell you to call SBA, then call them."

Residents can register online, through an app and on the phone.

In addition, FEMA inspectors will be going through the neighborhood and will open two centers in Austin to help residents register.

FEMA has asked people in need to file claims with their insurance company first. Those who are unable to do that should then visit for more help.

There is also a FEMA hotline available for those in need. It can be accessed by dialing 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

It can't be overstated how much this funding, which was announced in a disaster proclamation from President Joe Biden and FEMA earlier this week, is needed for residents on the West Side of Chicago and other parts of Cook County.

The rain has not let up this summer, leaving homeowners and business owners wondering how they were going to come up with the thousands of dollars to repair that flood damage. Nearly nine inches of rain came down across the West Side of Chicago on July 2 alone.

President Biden's approval for disaster relief funding for all of the damage has allowed people with flooded basements and businesses to take a sigh of relief.

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Reverend Ira Acree is the lead pastor at a church in Austin.

"All I can say is 'at last,'" Acree said.

He has led the charge in recent weeks, asking Governor Pritzker for this exact funding, as the basement church flooded from the July storm. Many of his constituents are dealing with the same issues at home too.

"This is money we didn't have for this," Acree said. "If we don't, we'll be fine, but these poor residents, some of these retired people, were calling our office crying and wondering when would there be any relief."

Acree said funding will be critical help so the church can keep using its own funds to help with different programs across the community.

READ MORE | Teams assess West Side damage after Chicago storms; residents describe 3 feet of water, sewer backup

Monday's press conference detailed how residents can get the help they need.

Acree is happy to hear that, but is hoping FEMA will be quick with its process to get these residents the money.

"Don't play with the people. Give these people the help that they need and help they deserve," Acree said.

For some in Chicago's Austin neighborhood, they are at the end of their rope trying to recover from flood damage.

"We just need some help," resident Ronald Henderson said. "We need help right away man."

Henderson said he and his fiancé would be out on the street if it wasn't for kind neighbors.

Another resident, Gabby Peña, captured video of the heavy flood waters on West Walton Street and in her basement.

"Hopefully they help us out to fix it," Peña said. "Hopefully they give us something. I'm not asking for a lot, but something to start."

A resident, Freddie Fobbs, said he needs to replace four furnaces in his two buildings.

"I just hope someone can pay for it instead of me," Fobbs said. "I can't afford to pay for it at one time and winter time is around the corner

FEMA said grants can go out to applicants within days of registering.

There will also be low interest loans available to assist residents to make repairs and prepare for winter.