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*** UPDATED x1 - IEMA responds *** Two states dispute IEMA’s account on grant application

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2019

* Gatehouse

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)
-Washington, D.C.

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 3:39 pm:

    Delaware is admitting a glitch and a a backlogged submission system. We need more information on this. What type of glitch or glitches did they experience? What was thus backlog? Did they have to manually re-submit their application?

  2. - illini - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    So let me see if I understand this correctly - 5 downstate Republican Congressmen are blaming JB for not getting an application submitted for FEMA funds only fays after he was inaugurated?

    Did not our former Governor spend multiple millions of consulting fees to the Pin Striped Mafia to upgrade our computer systems? It almost seems like the blame, if there is blame to be identified, should rightly go to those in the previous administration responsible for putting this application together and getting it submitted in a timely manner?

  3. - MakePoliticsCoolAgain - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:00 pm:

    This is what happens when you don’t hire your own people when one first assumes office. Raunerites have never been your friend - I just wonder how many of these face palm moments will be discovered over the coming weeks/months….

  4. - cover - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:00 pm:

    Maybe IEMA tried to submit the application, experienced a glitch, and then just gave up…

  5. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    === - illini - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    It almost seems like the blame, if there is blame to be identified, should rightly go to those in the previous administration ===

    Naturally… blame Rauner.

  6. - illini - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:10 pm:

    @Anonymous - I did not mention his name, but you made an astute connection. Amazing, isn’t it?

  7. - fyredog - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:15 pm:

    Could the issue possibly be called DoIT????

  8. - SOIL M - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:16 pm:

    Everything about IEMA is a beuraucratic nightmare, and has been for many years.
    Please get with your new IEMA Director, clean out those who sit in Springfield and shuffle papers back and forth to try and justify having a job, and create messes like this for you. This Dept has needed a thorough house cleaning for a long time and now is the time to examine it and start the process. The new Director seems to have a good head on her shoulders, let her start fresh and start making IEMA a more streamlined, efficient Agency to fulfill its duties.
    The problems there have been going on too long.

  9. - Heard some background - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:24 pm:

    I heard a bit of background on this story. First, the person who is managing the mitigation grant process for IEMA is new and this is the first year he has been responsible for submitting the applications. My understanding is he didn’t attend FEMA training on the computer system which contributed to the problem. Second he made a mistake with the first submission which prevented additional submissions being made until the mistake was fixed, which it was not.

    The issue wasn’t helped by the fact that his supervisor was also new in his job and did not adequately monitor the situation. The supervisor doesn’t have an emergency management background but is a Rauner political person who was moved into a safe civil service position in the past year.

    The whole unit is a mess because the Rauner administration laid off and ran off the competent staff.

  10. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Apr 23, 19 @ 4:29 pm:

    Cannot wait for Rich’s updates on this. Would be very telling if in actuality all the other states and tribes did in fact submit forms

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