The State of Iowa soon will be offering businesses forgivable loans to cover the cost of renting office space or other facilities in a flood zone. The program will start on April 16th.

Governor Chet Culver says it will help businesses which suffered severe flooding. "In some cases businesses that were in families for generations faced either temporary or permanent closures," Culver says.

Businesses renting space in an area of the state which was declared a disaster zone due to last spring’s tornadoes or flooding would be eligible for the rental assistance. "This program is innovative in that we are now assisting not only businesses currently located in disaster areas, but creating an incentive for new businesses to grow and expand in these communities which have suffered so much," Culver says.

Businesses will be eligible for this rental assistance from the state for up to six months. If the business stays open during that six month period, the state loan will be forgiven.

State officials are also asking for a waiver of federal requirements about the removal of lead-based paint from flooded-out homes. Lieutenant General Ron Dardis, the head of the state’s Rebuild Iowa Office, uses flood-ravaged Oakville as an example.

"They have many volunteers down there, ready to put people back in their homes. They have the homes all stripped and ready to go to work and because of this requirement on lead-based paint abatement, they can’t do anything," Dardis says. "The request that we’re making on the waiver is to allow us a timeframe — like 24 months or 36 months — to complete this requirement. But let the work begin and get these people get back in their homes as quick as they can and before these volunteers all go home."

Lead-based paint has been banned since 1978, but it’s still present in some older homes. Federal rules, for example, require contractors to use safeguards to ensure the lead doesn’t spread as dust if painted woodwork is sanded. But the irony in Oakville is many of the homes have no woodwork or interior paint of any kind inside since they’ve been stripped down to the studs in the walls to get rid of flood-contaminated wall board and woodwork.