Northeast Iowa Center for Independent Living closes indefinitely - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Northeast Iowa Center for Independent Living closes indefinitely

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

After more than 16 years serving the Cedar Valley, the Northeast Iowa Center for Independent Living is closing its doors at the end of the week.

The group's mission is to help disabled and elderly people live on their own; but federal, state, and local funding aren't enough to keep up with the needs of the folks they serve. In 2000, NEICIL began offering transportation services as Prime Time Pass, but they had no idea how many people would come to rely on their rides.

As the dispatcher for Prime Time Pass, Donna Barber lines up rides for hundreds of workers a day. Last year alone, drivers went on more than 15,000 calls. Barber knows her clients addresses by heart, and feels responsible to get them to work on time -- no matter what their personal challenges might be.

"We even had a homeless man that we were picking up at a local McDonalds. He was living in a storage shed and depended on us to provide a ride to work so he could get money for an apartment," she recalled.

NEICIL offers many services. But in the past few years, the demand for transportation grew tremendously -- and so did gas prices.

"See, all of our funding was based on expenses over a year ago. And so the funding was staying level, but the expenses, gas prices and stuff, are going sky high," said Director Kenneth Schuman.

Wednesday morning, Schuman and former director David Schumaker learned they were further into the red than they realized. Their only choice is to close.

"I know this is going to hurt a lot of people, because people rely on us," said Schumaker.

The center was only charging its clients $7 for a ride to work, which is more than half what they might pay for a conventional taxi service. So for NEICIL's low-income clients -- this isn't just the loss of a ride. It could mean the loss of a job.

"Those people are going to be lost. They're calling and they're crying -- what am I going to do?" said Barber.

NEICIL is closing immediately and the last ride for Prime Time Pass will be the April 15th. Which means, when the phone rings, barber now has to tell the clients that, after next week, no one will be here to answer.

"It's hard to give them the bad news. But there's nothing we can do, our hands are tied," she said.

The Schuman is hopeful they'll be able to organize their finances, and re-open in October. If they do, they will not offer transportation.

If you have any questions, you are encouraged to contact NEICIL at (319)291-7755 -- someone will answer the phone for at least the next few weeks.  Click here for the NEICIL website.

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