FEMA disaster teams visit Cicero to spread word about federal assistance after flooding

Cook County residents whose homes were damaged in record-setting rainfall in June and July can apply for federal funds to help cover losses. The deadline is Oct. 16.

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Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams Cicero

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau, right, joins FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams knocking on doors in Cicero on Sunday. Homes in the area were damaged by flooding in July. “By going door-to-door we are ensuring that we are actually hitting each individual home. Our job is to help the survivors that are out there,” Tate-Nadeau said.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

About a foot of water rushed into Rafael Servin and Antonia Cortes’ home in Cicero during severe rainstorms last month.

The couple said contractors estimated it would cost about $15,000 to repair damage to the floors, doors and walls in their basement. Many of their appliances were also rendered useless.

“The boiler, the dryer and the washing machine were all ruined,” Cortes said.

On Sunday, Cortes and her husband were among residents who registered for emergency federal assistance to help cover losses as officials went door-to-door in the suburb to spread the word about help for those affected.

Antonia Cortes Rafael Servin FEMA floods Cicero Chicago

Antonia Cortes and Rafael Servin talk with FEMA workers about applying for federal assistance. Floods in early July damaged their basement and rendered some appliances unusable.

Emmanuel Camarillo/Sun-Times

“If we get the help it would be great to at least repair the damages,” Cortes said. “Because it’s all very expensive, the materials and labor. We have to remove everything.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams knocked on doors and urged those who experienced damage from the record-setting rainfall at the end of June and early July to apply for assistance.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said the neighborhood walk was important to reach those who may not be able to apply for help online, such as seniors and those with limited internet access.

“Some people, some of our seniors or other folks, may not have the ability to know that we are here,” Tate-Nadeau said. “By going door-to-door we are ensuring that we are actually hitting each individual home. Our job is to help the survivors that are out there.”

Tate-Nadeau said that about 14,000 people have signed up for the relief program since President Joe Biden declared Cook County a disaster area Aug. 15, opening the door to emergency federal assistance.

Residents of Chicago and Cook County who had damage directly related to the flash flooding that occurred June 29 to July 2 are eligible to apply. The deadline is Oct. 16.

Austin Chicago Jimmy Blaine shows basement flood

Austin resident Jimmy Blaine shows how high the flood water reached in his basement in the first week of July. Blaine said his furnace, a shoe collection, a dryer and a PlayStation console were damaged.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times (file)

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” according to the disaster declaration from the White House.

Some parts of the Chicago area saw 9 inches of rain during rainstorms July 2. Cicero was one of the hardest-hit suburbs with around 8 inches of rainfall, according to the National Weather Service.

“It looked like a river,” said Cortes of the waters around her home that day. And if it hadn’t been for the three pumps clearing water out of her basement the damage would have been more severe, she said.

Andrew Friend, FEMA federal coordinating officer, said the agency has received questions about whether undocumented people would be eligible for assistance. He said just one member of the household needs to comply with citizenship criteria to register.

“That means a minor child who is a citizen, a noncitizen national or a qualified noncitizen can have a parent or a guardian who is not eligible apply for assistance on that child’s behalf,” Friend said.

He added that FEMA doesn’t collect information on immigration status of other household members. There may also be county and state programs that can help the undocumented, Friend said.

To apply for federal assistance: Start at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or call (800) 621-FEMA, or use the FEMA app.

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