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Sara Swann
By Sara Swann September 11, 2023

FEMA set up Chicago offices to help residents affected by flooding, not to plan a disaster

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  • After parts of Chicago experienced major flooding this summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up several disaster recovery centers in the city and surrounding suburbs where residents could get federal assistance and funding.

After heavy rainfall caused flooding in some parts of Chicago this summer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a half-dozen disaster recovery centers across the city where people could get aid.

But social media users are suggesting that rather than helping people, these centers are proof of a governmental conspiracy.

"FEMA OFFICE IN CHICAGO?!!! There's nothing going on here. No Heat waves, No Weather Anomalies, No Flooding, No Earthquakes," a Sept. 8 Facebook post read. "So WHY is this FEMA OFFICE THE ONLY ONE LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO? What Do They Know? What are they preparing for?!! What are they ABOUT TO DO HERE?!!"

The post also shared a TikTok video of a person making a similar claim while filming the location of FEMA’s disaster recovery center at Chicago’s Washington Square Mall.

"There’s no reason why FEMA should be here," the person said in the video. "Chicago has never had a weather disaster, so why is FEMA here?"

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Its claim aligns with several false claims we’ve seen that suggest recent natural disasters — from wildfires in Canada and Hawaii to hurricanes in Florida — were planned by people in power. But there’s no evidence that’s what happened.

More than 9 inches of rain fell on parts of Chicago and surrounding suburbs in late June and early July, causing major flooding in those areas. On Aug. 15, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Cook County, which includes Chicago, so residents could use federal resources and get disaster assistance.

In late August, FEMA opened several disaster recovery centers in the Chicago area for flood-affected residents, NBC Chicago reported. At the centers, FEMA staff can help residents apply for federal assistance and answer questions about how to make properties more disaster-resistant.

According to FEMA’s website, there are currently six disaster recovery centers open in the Chicago area. The agency says these centers are "set up in convenient areas after a disaster to make them easier to find."

A FEMA spokesperson told PolitiFact that the disaster recovery centers’ locations are chosen with accessibility in mind, as the goal is to reach as many people in need as possible.

As of Sept. 11, FEMA said it had approved $109 million in funds for more than 28,000 Cook County residents affected by the flooding.

This is not the first major flood or weather-related disaster to hit the Chicago area. Floods, tornadoes and heat waves — notably a 1995 heat wave that more than killed 500 people within a few days — have been happening for decades.

The Facebook post claimed these FEMA offices opened when no disaster had occurred in Chicago and suggested they were planted there in preparation for a future disaster. But that’s wrong.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), Sept. 8, 2023

Email exchange with a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesperson, Sept. 11, 2023

Federal Emergency Management Agency, "Illinois Disaster Recovery Centers," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

Federal Emergency Management Agency, "Over $100M into the Hands of Cook County Residents: Federal Assistance by the numbers," Sept. 11, 2023

Federal Emergency Management Agency, "Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Locator," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

NBC Chicago, "Biden approves disaster declaration for Chicago-area flooding," Aug. 15, 2023

NBC Chicago, "FEMA to open disaster recovery assistance centers in Cook County," Aug. 28, 2023

Illinois Department of Natural Resources, "History of flood control and drainage in northeastern Illinois," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

National Weather Service, "A Study of the Chicago Areas Significant Tornadoes," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

National Weather Service, "A comparison of Chicago and Rockford heat waves and hot summers," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

National Weather Service, "Historic Chicago July 12-15, 1995 Heat Wave," accessed Sept. 11, 2023

PolitiFact, "No, all weather is not ‘artificially controlled’," Sept. 29, 2022

PolitiFact, "No, President Joe Biden didn’t say the Maui, Hawaii, wildfires were ‘planned’," Sept. 7, 2023

PolitiFact, "Geoengineered smoke? No. Satellites show smoke that covered northeast US was from Canadian wildfires," June 14, 2023

PolitiFact, "Canada wildfires linked to record heat and drought, not ‘smart cities’," Aug. 30, 2023

PolitiFact, "Hurricane Ian was a natural disaster, not a political conspiracy to devastate Floridians," Sept. 30, 2022

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FEMA set up Chicago offices to help residents affected by flooding, not to plan a disaster

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