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Shimkat testifies before Senate on Iowa floods

‘A flood can happen and keep happening’

When Lisa Shimkat visited Hamburg shortly after the town was severely damaged by flooding in May, she was troubled by the devastation she witnessed of homes, farms, and businesses.

“In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen anything as frustrating and devastating as Hamburg,” Shimkat, of Fort Dodge, said. “They still have a long ways to go.”

Shimkat is the Iowa director for America’s Small Business Development Center.

She testified to the United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Wednesday in Ames.

Shimkat shared information about the state of small businesses impacted by floods in Iowa during the spring, the impact on road conditions, and resources still needed to help keep businesses open.

“What I wanted to point out is that a flood is different than other natural disasters,” Shimkat said. “A flood can happen and keep happening. We had people who would clean up, but when the flood waters came back again in June they would be flooded again. That’s the most frustrating thing is to help them dig out, only to have them get reflooded.”

Shimkat was asked by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, to testify in regards to the floods.

“We wanted to ask the federal government not to use this as a one size fits all disaster package,” she said. “It’s about helping the farming economy and businesses in terms of cleaning up and rebuilding.”

Shimkat said 34 businesses in Hamburg have been affected.

“We saw homes that were empty and main street that had still been flooded,” she said. “It’s sad when you hear that a family had their business and it was all they did for 20 years and then it’s gone.”

Shimkat did say that overall resources have been getting to the flooded areas throughout the state.

“The responses were good,” she said.

In regards to agricultural damage, Shimkat reported that 1.9 million bushels of corn have been lost from the fields in the counties of Fremont, Mills and Pottawattamie. Another 2.4 million bushels have been lost in storage due to water damage.

“Sometimes we put agriculture needs in one bucket and business needs in another,” Shimkat said. “We need to meld these two together to leverage everything we can to get them back on their feet.”

Road conditions in some areas have improved.

Shimkat said the reopening of Interstate 29 was much needed.

“That is open again and fabulous news,” she said. “Some of our businesses lost employees because it took them an hour-and-a-half to get to work instead of 20 minutes. They just couldn’t do it.”

In terms of financial assistance, Shimkat said there are two types of loans available through the SBA — disaster loans and economic impact disaster loans.

But she said those have different interest rates and need to be paid back.

Shimkat talked about the possibility of modifying some of the loans that are being distributed to small businesses by having a payment deferral.

Another possibility Shimkat mentioned is having a recovery flood tax credit.

“There’s no reason someone should have to deal with a 500-year flood twice in 10 years,” Shimkat said.

For those who wish to help those struggling with flooding, visit floods2019.iowa.gov.