Flood Task Force Aids Victims - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Flood Task Force Aids Victims

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL)

The Small Business Flood Recovery Task Force created and organized by the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has been a major source of support and information for the husband and wife team of Sue Warner and Tom Miller, owners of Schumacher Carpets and More in Cedar Rapids. Staying informed about new business recovery programs and issues regarding flood recovery would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, without the group.

"We have picked up so much important information from them," Miller said. "They let us know different places to apply for grants, and keep us informed on what is going on. They also tell us who we should contact and what changes in recovery programs we need or should push for, so we get noticed and get the recovery help we need."

Shannon Meyer, president and CEO of the Chamber, said, "The Millers are just one of many local businesses whose story illustrates the benefits of the Small Business Flood Recovery Task Force; a group of extraordinary, passionate professionals, who when combined with the Chamber's resources and contacts continues to accomplish incredible things for flooded businesses."

Gary Ficken, Task Force chairman and owner of Bimm Ridder Sportswear in Cedar Rapids, said the Task Force is made up of owners of flood-affected businesses, commercial and residential landlords, the Rebuild Iowa Office, Cedar Rapids city staff, Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Centers, Cedar Rapids City Council, Small Business Recovery Group, flood impacted landlords, and more.

"This group has tried to look at flood-affected businesses as a whole," Ficken said. "We try to figure out the needs of the small business owners, prioritize those needs and form potential government aid packages, and try to come up with funding vehicles to save as many businesses as possible."

Moving forward, the primary goal of the Task Force is to help impacted businesses stay open for many years to come.

"Predictions have been made, based on information taken from other disaster-affected cities in other states, that 55 percent of the businesses which reopen following a disaster will not make the three-year mark," Ficken said. "We want to do all we can to help them."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Task Force members were instrumental in working with the city and the state to reallocate Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds being used for recovery programs, and increasing the amount earmarked for business programs to $85 million, he said.

Other accomplishments include: speeding up aid and cutting red tape in initial aid programs, giving businesses a voice to work with the city and state to increase federal aid coming to businesses, helping communicate aid opportunities to flood-affected businesses, and identifying funding gaps and taking those needs to city, state and federal agencies.

Task Force members are currently putting together a long-term business recovery case management program. Ficken said he expects the program will begin sometime in early 2010. The Task Force has already hired two people as case managers to work with business owners on an individual basis in an effort to assist and strengthen the business community.

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