Illinois communities may not be able to compete for millions of dollars in federal money to prevent disaster-related problems because of an error.
The exact nature of the goof is under debate, and becoming subject to finger-pointing between politicians. At issue is eligibility for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, which has $400 million of grant funding available this year.
Illinois has received more than $18 million in grants from the program since 2003.
Those funds have been used to help communities lay plans for what needs to be done locally to prevent potential disasters from being worse — from shoring up backup power for the water supply to enhancing flood walls, updating tornado sirens and crafting regional emergency communication plans.
When the state electronically submitted its application for pre-disaster mitigation grants available through the federal government’s 2018 fiscal year funding cycle, IEMA said it experienced a technical glitch in late January in an online portal days before a deadline, which led to Illinois missing out on a piece of the $400 million of federal money that was available.
However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denies a technical error played a role in Illinois’ application.
IEMA says it was one of more than 20 states and tribes around the country that had trouble when applying for the grant dollars.
“Illinois was one of nearly two dozen states and tribes that experienced technical glitches or system errors with the FEMA online portal, which is why we are working diligently with our congressional delegation to ensure that the federal government considers these grant applications,” said Rebecca Clark, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “A technical error with FEMA’s system shouldn’t prevent Illinois communities from having a fair shot at receiving these grant funds.”
* SJ-R editorial…
Five downstate Republican congressmen are asking Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to explain how and why the application did not get submitted, and how the state will avoid future issues.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, meanwhile, says the focus should be on appealing to FEMA to look past the red tape and not let the snafu prevent worthy projects from being considered.
We’d argue that the state does need to figure out what went wrong and how future messes could be avoided. But let’s hope the five GOP congressmen can put politics aside and join with Bustos in a bipartisan way to lobby FEMA for Illinois’ interests.
* The Pritzker administration claims FEMA told the Illinois Emergency Management Agency that 22 states experienced “technical glitches,” or “system error.” IEMA claims to have “independently learned” that the following states, tribes, etc. experienced problems…
-Menominee Tribe (Wisconsin)
I sent inquiries to all of those emergency management agencies except for DC’s. So far, I’ve received two replies.
* From the Utah Division of Emergency Management’s Joe Dougherty…
Utah did not experience anything in the system that kept us from making the PDM grant application deadline. We are expecting to hear back from FEMA around the beginning of May.
* From Gary Laing at the Delaware Emergency Management Agency…
After checking with our Natural Hazards section, I found that while we experienced a bit of a glitch, it did not prevent Delaware from being able to submit its paperwork completely and on time. While the system may have been backlogged for a period, our application went through.
*** UPDATE *** From IEMA…
As you reported, Illinois independently verified other states experienced similar technical glitches. This does not mean they were denied, but that they experienced similar problem with the submission process. To our knowledge, Illinois and DC are the only applicants that have been denied by FEMA; however, the attached spreadsheet outlines what we have learned from other states regarding the various technical glitches experienced with the FEMA eGrants program.
The spreadsheet is here. A timeline is here.