State Senator Dave Koehler Koehler-tornadobelieves that communities like Pekin, East Peoria, Washington and Gifford shouldn't have to shoulder the entire cost of cleaning up after the deadly tornadoes that tore through central Illinois last fall.

He is proposing a new law that allows the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to reimburse local governments in state disaster areas for the costs of debris removal and emergency protective measures. Though many homes and businesses in the affected communities were damaged or destroyed, the federal government chose not to provide financial assistance, leaving local governments to pick up the entire cost of these services on their own.

"The people who live in these communities relied on their local governments to clean up after these storms and help make their towns habitable again," Koehler said. "Clean-up work is expensive, though, and now the bills are coming due. At the same time, the tornado damage has reduced the tax base in those communities. They're facing serious budget challenges."

Municipal, county, township, school district and community college governments would be eligible to apply for assistance under Koehler's plan. In order to qualify, they must be in a declared disaster area and be able to prove that they paid to remove debris from public property, for search and rescue missions, to provide emergency medical services or for overtime for local emergency responders.

The legislation does not only apply to the November tornadoes. It would make assistance available to other communities devastated by natural disasters in the future.

Koehler's plan, Senate Bill 231, passed a Senate committee yesterday evening and may be voted on by the full Senate later this week.