Mayor Brandon Johnson, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) and Jason Blum of FEMA meet with West Side neighbors to assess damage and impact of recent flooding in Austin on July 25, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

AUSTIN — As West Side residents apply for federal flood relief, Mayor Brandon Johnson and other officials cautioned neighbors to look out for fraud by people posing as federal officials.

Johnson and county and federal officials met Thursday at the West Chicago Avenue Public Library, 4856 W. Chicago Ave., to announce a disaster declaration for Cook County and extend their support to neighbors. 

President Joe Biden approved the designation earlier this week in response to late June and early July rains that caused widespread flooding, particularly on the West Side and in the western suburbs.

The declaration means residents and businesses affected by the flooding can receive grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover repairs for uninsured property losses and other programs to help people recover.

Scroll down on how to apply for relief.

Standing water pools in the street at Kostner Avenue and Roosevelt Road in North Lawndale as flooding continues to trouble Chicago’s West Side after rainfall on July 12, 2023. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Johnson, who lives in Austin, said he was saddened to see the extent of the flood damage as he toured the hardest-hit areas but was encouraged by the community’s resilience.

“When I walked through my neighborhood, my heart ached to see it hurt by the storm,” Johnson said. “Our basements mean as much to the history of Chicago as house music and Uncle Remus. … As long as I’m mayor, I will not leave anyone in this city behind.”

Andrew Friend, federal coordinating officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned residents to be wary of scammers. Dozens of people have reported fraudulent calls from people posing as FEMA agents, Friend said.

The agency will never request money or a Social Security number, Friend said. People should report any suspicious calls to FEMA and call the FEMA hotline, 1-800-621-3362, to verify if an employee works for the agency, officials said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, along with other Cook County and FEMA officials, to discuss disaster declaration. Credit: Trey Arline/Block Club Chicago

How To Apply For Help

FEMA is overseeing the disaster declaration and resident assistance programs. The assistance is available to anyone in Cook County who suffered damage during the storms in late June and early July.

Residents can apply at, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA smartphone app. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service, captioned telephone service or other service can give FEMA the number for that service.

Greg Nimmo, Illinois Emergency Management Agency state coordinating officer/recovery branch chief, said there have been 8,000 registrations for the FEMA app in the last 48 hours.

For those who suffered damage to their home and have insurance for their home or apartment, FEMA asks that those residents first file a claim with their insurance provider.

Residents who did suffer damage and do not have insurance or have under-insured losses can contact FEMA to register for assistance, according to the federal agency.

Here’s the registration information FEMA needs from residents:

  • A current phone number where you can be contacted
  • Your address at the time of the disaster and the address where you are now staying
  • Your Social Security number (or the Social Security number of a minor child in your household, if you’re applying on their behalf)
  • A general list of damage and losses
  • Banking information if you choose direct deposit
  • If insured, the policy number or the agent and/or the company name

After registering with FEMA, residents will be given an application number that should be kept for reference or status checks on filed claims, according to the city’s disaster assistance application process webpage.

A FEMA inspector will call within a few days to arrange a visit of the damaged home or apartment. Proof of ownership or occupancy of the damaged home is required.

Disaster recovery centers will also be opened in Cook County to help residents engage with FEMA, but those locations have yet to be made public.

Damage assessment work is continuing, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.

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