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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Here’s How West Siders Can Apply For Federal Flood Assistance

The federal funding comes after July's record-breaking storms battered West Side neighborhoods, causing widespread damage to homes and businesses.

Standing water pools for half a block at Franklin Boulevard and Homan Avenue in Humboldt Park as flooding continues to trouble Chicago’s West Side after rainfall on July 12, 2023.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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AUSTIN — The federal government has authorized financial assistance for West Side homeowners and others impacted by July’s torrential rains and floods.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday approved a disaster declaration for Cook County following late June and early July rains that caused widespread flooding, particularly on the West Side and in the western suburbs.

The declaration paves the way for federal assistance for residents and business owners who have been pleading for more relief. It authorizes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover repairs for uninsured property losses and other programs to help people recover.

Biden approved Illinois’ disaster declaration request for Cook County after local and state officials surveyed the flood damage on the West Side and surrounding areas. Investigators visited with over 2,800 residents impacted by the floods, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

“Residents and businesses, especially those on the West Side of Chicago who were most brutally hit, are now able to access additional resources necessary to rebuild and revitalize, and I know Cook County will build back stronger than ever,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement.

West Side communities saw nearly 9 inches of rain within a 24-hour period during the July 2 storms. One in four households in Austin reported flooding damage after the city’s sewer system overflowed because it couldn’t handle the excess stormwater. 

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose own West Side home was flooded during the storms, called the FEMA help a “significant community investment.”

“President Biden’s disaster declaration will establish a critically important, transformational venue of economic relief and restoration activity, which will greatly benefit area residents, especially seniors and those struggling financially,” Mitts said in a statement.

How To Apply For Help

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Standing water pools in the street near 13th Street and Kildare Avenue in North Lawndale as flooding continues to trouble Chicago’s West Side after rainfall on July 12, 2023.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is the organization 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.

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.

Residents can apply for assistance 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.

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

For more information about the Cook County disaster declaration, visit FEMA’s webpage here.

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, officials said.

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