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FEMA rules on disaster assistance leave some areas high and dry

My friends in tornado-slammed downstate Washington aren’t the only ones who think they are getting a raw deal from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance program.

Cook County officials say communities here also are treated unfairly by the system FEMA uses to determine which local governments qualify for aid.

Just as Washington was tripped up last week by the way FEMA calculates whether it suffered enough tornado damage to deserve financial help, Cook County suburbs routinely have been denied federal assistance in the aftermath of disasters.

Case in point: last year’s April floods that saw Chicago-area rivers and creeks cause widespread damage, prompting Gov. Pat Quinn to declare most of northeastern Illinois a disaster area.

Most of the collar counties were approved for FEMA assistance after the floods, allowing their local governments to recoup 75 percent of the cost of cleanup, emergency response and public infrastructure repair.

But Cook County’s relief application was rejected.