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SPRINGFIELD - State shelters that once housed evacuees from the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast are now empty in Illinois, but the state continues to assist about 200 people with temporary housing.

It's been five months since the hurricane hit, and now the tab for Illinois is estimated to be about $17 million. The federal government is expected to reimburse the state.

"Our role isn't over now," said Tom Green, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services.

About 440 people were flown to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Katrina struck on Aug. 29. Most of them came from New Orleans.

"The FEMA flights were people who literally were saved from being stuck in the water, many of them literally on roof tops or displaced or (left) homeless by the flood," Green said.

The five original temporary shelters, set up in mental health facilities in Alton, Rockford and the Chicago area, have been empty since early December.

"Most of the people - either returned home to the south or found housing near the shelter they were staying at," said Green.

The $2.5 million cost for the immediate housing will be covered by FEMA. However, the new temporary housing for those who stayed in Illinois will be covered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The deadline for temporary housing money is supposed to be Feb. 17. However, Green said the state is applying for an extension that would last until June, and officials are working to help find permanent housing for those who remain in the state.

Around 8,000 others came to Illinois from the gulf region on their own. Green said there is no definite count on how many of those have stayed in the Land of Lincoln.

Illinois also spent about $15 million sending crews and supplies to the affected areas, said Patti Thompson, spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. However, that total is not final and still could go up or down.

The money the state has spent to assist individuals and states in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will be reimbursed by the federal government.

More than 900 firefighters, 100 state workers, police officers and medical teams headed south as part of the inter-state Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC. Under the agreement, states send aid to other states after an emergency.

Every state except Hawaii is part of the program.

"It's going to come in pieces because that's how our accounting is coming to us," Thompson said.

She added that local governments, such as those that sent firefighters, fronted a lot of the original costs. However, they are being reimbursed through the Illinois disaster relief fund.


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