SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KWQC) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended the deadline for Henderson County to repay public assistance grant money it received following the 2008 floods. FEMA extended the deadline to Oct. 2018. Illinois had been withholding state payments to Henderson County to start recovering $470,000. The County Board approved cashing in two certificates of deposit to start paying down the debt, releasing the state hold. Henderson County State’s Attorney Scott McClintock said extending the deadline to repay will allow the County to build the rest of the repayment into its next two budget years. McClintock said the board will have to approve some austerity measures, but the move will allow the County to retain a third and final certificate of deposit in its cash reserves.
OQUAWKA, Ill. (KWQC) – Illinois has lifted a hold on checks sent to Henderson County. The change comes after the county board approved cashing in two bank deposits to pay down a debt left over from the 2008 flood. But, even with Tuesday’s vote the county still has a deep financial hole to dig itself out of.
The county received millions in federal assistance after the devastating flood of 2008. But a DHS Inspector General audit three years later found the county didn’t follow federal contracting rules, so FEMA demanded the county repay some of the money it got.
At the beginning of September Illinois started withholding funds from the county, threatening its ability to serve residents. At the Henderson County Health Department, Linda McBride was walking on the treadmill. She said she comes here often.
“I come because of my health, I know I need the physical activity, and I also like to come and mingle with the other people,” said McBride.
The health department was one of the county agencies facing immediate closure. It had only one month of cash on hand.
McBride said, “If they closed down than I’d have to do this at home, I have too many interruptions at home, I can stop and do a load of laundry, stop and do the dishes, stop and do anything.”
The board approved cashing in two certificates of deposit worth $155,000. Combine that with the money Illinois already withheld from the county and Henderson County will be about halfway toward paying off a $470,000 FEMA debt.
State’s Attorney Scott McClintock said, “From the outside looking in, it’s obviously going to be extremely difficult.”
McClintock said he’s not sure where the board will come up with the rest of the money. It has only one cd left worth $70,000 and he said the county’s tax rate is maxed out.
“Hopefully there’s some budget tricks we can utilize in next year’s fiscal budget, I’m not overly entirely optimistic about that, but hopefully we can come to some kind of resolution,” said McClintock.
Board Chairman Albert Renken said the county is working on next year’s budget. But with no more reserves, he doubts the county will be able to pay off the remaining debt in one year.
“I don’t know that we’ll be able to find it all in next year’s budget but it’s just something we’ll have to work on and see wherever we can to try and get some money,” said Renken.
One of the board members asked whether it would be possible to borrow money to pay off the debt. The county’s audit shows it can borrow up to $7.5 million. But the board would still need to find a way to pay for those loan payments if it went that route.
The county will not get back any money the state already withheld from it. That means it will have to make do without roughly $130,000. The county’s next budget year starts December first.