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The math behind FEMA's decision to deny tornado aid

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reaffirmed this week an earlier decision that damage from the 25 tornadoes that hit Illinois in November were “not of the severity and magnitude” to warrant federal financial assistance to local governments. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, whose hometown of Washington was devastated by the storm, follows the dollars to make some sense of it:

I could have accepted FEMA saying: “doesn’t fit neatly into our rules” or “sorry, the federal government is broke, too.”

But how much more severity and magnitude do you need than 1,100 homes destroyed in one town, most of them obliterated off the face of the earth in the blink of an eye.

This is a decision that only makes sense in a bureaucrat’s world, which worries me because I think I understand the explanation, as much as I can’t really comprehend it.

In essence, the federal government is saying the people of Illinois should be able to handle this on our own. And , of course, we will — one way or another, even though our state is broke. Gov. Pat Quinn cobbled together a state relief package Wednesday that should help.

That take-care-of-it yourself approach might even appeal to some conservative types — until they realize that if the same tornado had caused the same damage in one of our neighboring states, it would have stood a much better chance of triggering federal disaster assistance.