FEMA denies aid to town ravaged by tornado

Tornado damage in Harrisburg, Ill.
CBS News

(CBS News) On February 29th, a tornado left seven dead and the town of Harrisburg, Ill., in ruins. Now, two weeks later and clean-up efforts ongoing, residents learned they'll receive no relief funding from the federal government.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deemed the damage "not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state, affected local governments and voluntary agencies."

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg disagrees. "I think they owe us an explanation on how they arrived at this conclusion," Gregg said. "The whole premise of government is to protect and serve."

"We would like to be able to help everybody, but we have to look at the impacts to the state and go, are there other ways to meet these need," said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who toured the affected areas, calls FEMA's damage assessment naive. He and other Ill. lawmakers plan to meet with FEMA officials to appeal the decision.

Durbin argues that the agency ought to consider diminished state and local budgets -- not just the size of the state and the cost of the cleanup.

(To watch Erica Hill's full report, watch the video in the player above.)