EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and emergency agencies held a press conference at a FEMA disaster recovery center to encourage more homeowners to apply for flood relief before the deadline next month.

An East St. Louis senior citizen center turned disaster recovery center was the backdrop for a multi-agency push to get more people to apply for flood damage relief.

“It will not replace what happened, but it will help them get to the road of recovery,” said Tom Sivak, FEMA regional director.

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Durbin encouraged homeowners in his hometown to take advantage of the aid. Many were still recovering from the July floods, which President Biden recently declared a major disaster.

FEMA has two centers in the Metro East, one in East St. Louis and the other in Caseyville.

“We’re down here at the river bottom, so when it rains,” Durbin said. “That river bottom wants to collect the water as it always did, and we have to fight it.”

As of Thursday afternoon, FEMA had provided $5.5 million to homeowners so far to jumpstart their recovery, with more registering every day.

About 687 Metro East households were assisted, averaging roughly 150 a day at the East St. Louis center alone.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 16.

“Don’t wait, do it as soon as you can,” Durbin said. “We have people ready to register you and put you on the books.”

An application was submitted to FEMA on Thursday, which proposed a potential buyout of 120 flood-damaged homes throughout St. Clair County. Officials have yet to talk to homeowners about whether they would accept the offer if approved.

Durbin promises the Army Corps will rebuild the drainage system to help in the future.

“We’ve had one focus in mind, and that was for the residents in this community to make sure we can bring up about resiliency and recovery in a time of loss,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, Illinois Emergency Management Agency director.

The center is open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To receive more disaster assistance information and apply before the Dec. 16 deadline, click here. The applicants can also call the Small Business Administration (SBA) customer service center at 1-800-659-2955.