President Joe Biden issues disaster declaration for September rains, allowing federal assistance for Chicago south suburbs

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CHICAGO — President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration Monday ordering federal assistance for communities affected by heavy flooding on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18, according to a White House statement.

The announcement comes after Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Gov. J.B. Pritzker made similar disaster proclamations Oct. 4 and Oct. 26, which unlocked state funds to assist residents in their recovery efforts. The communities most affected by the rains were identified as Burnham, Calumet City, Dolton, Harvey and South Holland.

Pritzker’s proclamation also included waiving penalties for taxpayers who need more time to file their state taxes.

The Sept. 17 storm saw heavy rains in a very focused area. Calumet City and Riverdale experienced 7-9 inches of rain and Dolton had 5-6 inches, but Midway Airport only had 2 inches of rain, according to data from the Nation Weather Service.

These heavy rains followed widespread flooding in Cook County at the end of June and early July, which strained sewage and storm water prevention infrastructure already in need of upgrades throughout the area. Biden also issued a disaster declaration for the June and July flooding, bringing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to affected areas for several weeks.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the White House statement read.

A spokesperson for FEMA could not be reached immediately for more comment.

According to Preckwinkle’s office, Burnham, Calumet City, Dolton, Harvey and South Holland were among the hardest-hit municipalities in the county.

A spokesperson with Preckwinkle’s office said Calumet City residents have expressed the most need for support based on damage from the September flooding, with 1,043 damage reports filed compared to 152 damage reports from Chicago residents and 51 from Dolton residents.

“These numbers are not reflective of all the damage incurred — there were anecdotal reports from impacted municipalities where residents indicated they sustained damage but did not fill out a formal initial damage report,” said Natalia Derevyanny, the director of communications for the Cook County Bureau of Administration, in an Oct. 30 email.

Derevyanny did not provide report counts in other hard-hit areas, but said Riverdale had “reports of flooding on 15 separate blocks” and Burnham had “numerous reports over multiple blocks.”

A spokesperson from Calumet City could not be reached. Burnham and Riverdale did not immediately provide a comment.