El Reno business owners hoping for FEMA assistance

FEMA volunteers are spending the next few days in El Reno. The city is hoping the organization can find some financial assistance for businesses still struggling since the May 31st tornado. Some business owners say that assistance could save their livelihood.

"I had seven people inside that building and when the tornado hit they were underneath the staircase," said El Reno business owner Mark Gilmore.

Gilmore's Kitchen had only been up and running for a year when the May 31st tornado hit and his employees had to seek cover.

"I had about $40,000 worth of losses out there and I didn't have insurance," said Gilmore. He had to lay off 13 employees and is now struggling to keep his other business in town afloat.

"There is a chance if it doesn't happen, we'll close, he said.

Gilmore is referring to an opportunity to get FEMA assistance. The city of El Reno and FEMA are teaming up to find out just how hard businesses were hit and hopefully provide financial assistance.

"We thought it was a really good idea to at least be able to measure what impact it has on our business," said El Reno Assistant City Manager John Dean.

Dean and others from Canadian County, El Reno Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce came up with the El Reno Business Recovery Survey. The survey asks business owners to answer a series of questions about damage they had, wages lost and whether or not they had insurance.

For the next few days FEMA volunteers will be conducting the survey, walking from business to business all across town.

"We think we can complete the survey in three days, just based on the areas that we mapped out," said Dean.

"You have to jump through so much red tape and hoops to get the assistance, and I can see, just like myself, you can kind of give up on that," said Gilmore.

Gilmore sees the potential for FEMA assistance as his only lifeline. He may not ever re-open Gilmore's Kitchen, but he hopes to at least save the business he does have.

"It's not paying the bills yet. Still trying to struggle back," said Gilmore. "So come on out and eat because we need some help."