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Gulfport Residents Come With Questions
Fran Doran from Salem, Iowa was in the middle of a catch 22 situation after the big flood of 2008. Her father who was a Gulfport resident, died May 1st, the flood came June 17th while she was dealing with her dad's death, the estate and her inheritance. Then she got laid off of work in July.
She was told to file under herself, not the estate of her father, Amendo Villarreal', but then was told that since she hadn't moved into the house yet, she didn't qualify. She couldn't afford rent, she couldn't get any kind of job, so she took her only option and went back to school.
"I am majoring in psychology to help others go through situations like this," she said.
But for now, she is homeless seeking some agency that might help her with her losses.
There are many heart-rendering stories such as Fran's of frustrated and emotional individuals who gathered inside the Gulfport Fire Station Monday morning in hopes to learn of more information that might give them answers.
There was Congressman Phil Hare who seemed like the lone representative constantly carrying the torch back to his peers in Washington of the plight of his people and the many others who have suffered from flooding along the Mississippi River.
Over and over, he said, "We will not forget you" and he ended his visit to those gathered saying "This is only the beginning" promising them that he will continue his fight for a 500 year levee.
The 500 year levee is a 6 billion dollar process along the entire Mississippi River where flooding is an issue, but it only makes sense, Hare said.
As he debates with his Congressional peers, Hare tells them that spending billions in clean-up costs more in the long run than it would if government would seek preventive measures.
The flood cost to the government for the ruin of homes, businesses, roads, is too great not to seek a preventative solution, not to say the emotional effect is has had in stress to residents, businesses, volunteers and the whole community.
In introducing agency officials to those gathered, Congressman Hare said they were the best in the state and good people who are working to help them in these flood recovery efforts.
Hare also reminded residents that they are restricted by the law in what they can do and said legislators need to implement new legislation to help with some of the problems.
When he returns to his office, he said he will also look at different routes where they might be able to accomplish some of the concerns of the residents of the community.
Hare said, "It is heartbreaking when you drive through here," and said he carries the letters people have sent to him, and has shared them with others
Chief of Staff, national director of FEMA come in, aids that come in, this is not Forgothonia, and that is not the case, I am not going to forget you. Some others things we are going to try to do on the house side is the members along the Mississippi are going to try to work together and put some strength in numbers and try to get some additional funding.
The Congressman thanked all the representatives from the different agencies who came and told residents we will see where you are at and where we need to go.
Director Velasquez from The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) assured that he and staff, Sue Coers, Region II Coordinator, hire individuals who live within the state so they will be able to assist throughout the state.
Velasquez said that the June flood waters that devastated Gulfport terrifically had impacted a 280 mile stretch along the Mississippi River impacting multi-states. Right after flooding, IEMA were aggressive and received Federal aid in Henderson County alone just over $2 million to help out the individuals that were impacted here.
He said they also have representation here from other state agencies such as the Illinois Department of Human Services, as well as Josh Ragar IL Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (ECEO).
Other state agencies - long term - recovery council came to speak to those issues and announced they have received grant money to establish long term recovery - grant nearly million in addition to the former grant of $2.1 million, DCO is also working aggressively to get grant funding for Henderson County as well.
We know there are some real critical decisions that have to be made. For instance levee certification vs. homeowner buy-outs. We will provide you with as much information as we can, but ultimately, it is a local decision that has to be made. I trust the county board and local engineers will make the decisions that need to be made.
Army Corp of Engineers are here to help answer questions on the recertification program and the levees. I can assure you we will continue to do all we can do to help you recover from this disaster...
We are talking to Mr. Cavanaugh, Mr. Lafary, and other officials to continue to find answers.
Last year we experienced 80 counties that were disaster areas in the state of Illinois. That was a record, he said, and we have dealt with every kind of disaster imaginable," but again, Velasquez said they will assure you that it doesn't mean you will not be watched after. He said they have been keeping in touch with county officials on a regular basis and will continue to do so during this recover process.
The crowd was able to ask many questions of concern from levee certification to cleaning out drainage ditches to additional help for funding.
Congressman Phil Hare (left) assures residents this is not another Forgothonia. "I am not going to forget you." Hare's seated by IEMA Director.