The deadline for former employees of Beef Products Incorporated to apply for aid from the company’s relief fund is this Saturday.

The Dakota Dunes-based company established the 10 million dollar fund in September for employees who lost their jobs when the company closed three plants, including one in Waterloo, in 2012.

BPI spokesman Rich Jochum says the company has heard from hundreds of affected workers. “Approximately 650 applications that we received, so we would gauge that as being very strong, very good response to the notifications and the advertising and reach out efforts that have been done so far,” according to Jochum.

Jochum says the company laid off about 750 workers and closed plants in Iowa, Texas and Kansas in 2012. “We’ve also extended this fund or the possibility of participating of this fund to individuals who didn’t actually lose their employment — but who may’ve also been affected here locally with reduced hours — because the plant in South Sioux City was not running as many hours,” Jochum says.

The plant closing were caused by business and revenue lost after national reports by ABC News on the company’s lean finely textured beef. BPI sued ABC for defamation and reached a confidential settlement with the network and its parent company Disney in June.

Jochum says affected employees still may go online to the Beef Products website to apply for assistance funds. The company hopes to distribute the funds to them before January. “We hope that we can get through the review process and still be able to distribute the funds before the end of this year,” Jochum says. “It’s still a bit of a fluid process — but that is still our goal.”

The Siouxland Chamber of Commerce is providing application assistance to local employees who request it.

(By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)