2014 ACE: Best in Show & Grand Award
On November 18, 2013, Central Illinois made national news. Unfortunately, it was due to the disaster that hit towns like Gifford and Washington, where residents and businesses lost everything. In partnership with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce established a Business Emergency Relief Grant Program. The goal of this program was to prevent businesses in our community from becoming part of the following staggering statistics. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another twenty-five percent fail within the first year after a disaster. The US Small Business Administration indicates that it increases to ninety percent failure by the second year after a disaster.
Fundraising started on Monday, November 18, 2013, and donations were accepted until Friday, December 5, 2013. The process was stress-free for affected businesses to access the grant funds; they simply had to fill out a one-page application, which was available on the Chamber’s website. Affected businesses could use the funds for building materials; labor costs associated with rebuilding; direct costs related to operation of their business; lost revenue; replacing inventory; payroll; paying bills; new equipment such as computers, printers, office supplies; and any other approved uses on a case-by-case basis. We urged members to ask themselves if they would want this available to their company if there was ever a need. A committee made up of three Chamber board members, the Chamber and the Community Foundation president and CEOs reviewed applications and determined how the funds would be dispersed. Businesses of the Gifford community were also offered complimentary membership for one year, exposure in the Commerce Connection and complimentary admission to a spring breakfast.
Our main goal was to create a program that assisted businesses in neighboring counties that were negatively impacted by this disaster, regardless of whether or not they were members of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. We also worked to: