Aug. 2, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

In Illinois, District Offices Leap Into Tornado Recovery Efforts

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Schock heard the news of the Illinois tornados while he was in church and quickly mobilized his D.C. and district offices to help.

While Pollard spent much of his time behind the wheel and on the ground with constituents, Kirk’s Chicago office staff and the team in D.C. sat in on conference calls with officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and local leaders.

Ultimately, it will be D.C.’s job to secure financial disaster assistance for tornado victims, explained Kirk spokesman Lance Trover. First-hand accounts will eventually be used to fight for federal funding from Congress.

Freshman Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., learned some lessons about disaster relief in April, when excessive rainfall led to widespread floods that saturated parts of her western Illinois district. A list of Red Cross shelters and county resources compiled this spring, titled “Help for Illinois Storm Victims,” was retooled for the current disaster then shared by her staff via Bustos’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Bustos was at home in East Moline when this month’s storms hit, about 100 miles northwest of the worst damage. The twisters destroyed the homes of about 75 of her Pekin, Ill., constituents.

The lone staffer in Bustos’ Peoria office pushed aside his planned to-do list to focus almost exclusively on tornado recovery, tracking down phone numbers and contact information for local people in need.

“Our D.C. office doesn’t always necessarily feel the impact of natural disasters back in the District, just because people are probably more likely to call their local office,” said Bustos spokesman Colin Milligan.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., has a designated D.C. staffer who coordinates the gathering and dissemination of information during disasters. In coordination with his state director and chief of staff, the trio coordinates ground response and outreach efforts to local leaders. He’s also got a press team blasting out useful information via Twitter, Facebook and releases.

Durbin arrived on the Senate floor Monday with photo displays of rubble and debris on the mangled landscape.

“The extent of the damage is breathtaking,” he said, commending first responders on their quick work in the aftermath. “I’m confident the state will need federal assistance to help with cleanup and recovery and I stand ready, along with Senator Kirk, to ensure there’s federal assistance to augment the arduous but critical recovery work that the municipalities and the state already have begun.”

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