Lawmakers push for FEMA reform

Lawmakers push for FEMA reform

CHAMPAIGN — U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis said Friday they're hopeful that legislation to reform FEMA's formula for awarding disaster assistance can be revised.

And Davis said the House legislation, if approved, would be retroactive to 2013 so that towns ravaged in last November's tornado outbreak in Illinois "would be able to be rejudged under this new formula, which is more fair not only to Illinois but other states."

Davis has argued in the past that the current FEMA disaster formula is skewed against states like Illinois that are population-heavy but get penalized when disasters strike less densely populated areas.

Kirk joked that FEMA stands for "Fairly Empty Ability to Make Things Alright."

"If the FEMA regulations prohibit FEMA from helping out Washington, Illinois, effectively, they need to be changed. The Durbin-Kirk legislation, which is something we're all working on, would change those things," Kirk said.

Davis added, "We're going to continue work in a bipartisan way to move this legislation forward because it's the right thing to do."

Kirk, wearing a "Washington Strong" bracelet in honor of the Washington, Ill., tornado victims, said he was working to find senators from other states "that are equally disadvantaged by this FEMA formula."

Although Illinois would benefit from a change in the formula, Davis said that doesn't mean other states would lose.

"What you're assuming," he said, "is that that account is maxed out each year. What the reality is when you use a more fair proposal that would allow communities like Washington and Gifford to be included rather than excluded, regardless of whether or not there are less claims or more claims."

Kirk said he was hopeful "because (Dick Durbin) is such a big partisan heavyweight, and that carries a lot of weight with the White House."

Meanwhile, Davis said he has agreed to debate his Republican primary opponents on a Bloomington radio station March 10. The session with Davis, Erika Harold of Urbana and Michael Firsching of Moro, will be from 7 to 8 a.m. on radio station WRPW-FM, 92.9.

"I've said we would always consider any invitations for public forums or debates, and we've done so. I guess we've accepted one that will be coming up," he said. "Those are opportunities that fit into my schedule and my opponents' schedule and I look forward to the debate."

Davis missed a joint appearance in Champaign on Thursday night with Harold and Firsching in order to speak at the Macon County Lincoln Day Dinner.

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