FCIF: A Lifeline in a Storm

In an industry where family values run strong, it should come as no surprise that a relief fund is available to flooring workers who are suffering through a medical crisis. What is surprising is that so many of them haven’t heard of this 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, although it’s been changing lives for decades.

The Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF), founded in 1981, provides direct assistance to applicants who are facing a medical situation—their own or one affecting a household family member—that could render them unable to work and earn income. To qualify, recipients must have at least five years of service to the flooring community and demonstrate financial need. Grants can be used to foot the bill for medical care—everything from testing and prescriptions to hospitalization and medical equipment—or to pay for basic necessities such as food, shelter and utilities. Even transportation and medically necessary home modifications make the list of sanctioned uses. The money does not have to be repaid, and there’s no cap on how much a family can receive.

Helping Across the Board

FCIF might sound too good to be true, but Executive Director Andrea Blackbourn assures that the help it offers really is there for the taking. And, she adds, it’s a lifeline for more people than you might think.

For one, the organization takes pride in being able to help people at varying socioeconomic levels. FCIF recognizes that the definition of need varies on a case-by-case basis and, therefore, it does not subscribe to rigid qualification benchmarks such as salary bracket, federal poverty guidelines or the previous year’s tax return. “We don’t have a specific line in the sand, per se,” says Blackbourn. She explains that most people are financially blind-sided when hit with a life-altering medical event such as a stage IV brain tumor diagnosis, a car accident that leaves someone unable to ever walk again, or the arrival of a baby with serious birth defects.

The potential for those associated costs to reach astronomical proportions, coupled with the likelihood that someone in the family may have to stop working or drastically reduce their hours, means judging need according to the individual situation. “We look at what’s going on with the family,” Blackbourn explains. “We look at their medical evaluations and how that affects their ability to earn money, then we look at their expenses—insurance, how much they’re paying out of pocket each month for doctor bills, etc.” Based on the most current information available, the FCIF team builds a budget for the next six months. The grants range anywhere from a few hundred dollars per month to a few thousand dollars per month. A new application can be filed every six months, if necessary, although the level of support might change along with the need. Someone who undergoes major surgery, for instance, may still require financial assistance after the initial six months, but may have a lesser burden now that the costs associated with the procedure have been settled. FCIF has a case worker and a social worker who help families through the application process and connect them to other financial and community resources based on their specific needs. A grant committee comprised of board members reviews each case to determine the level of support that the foundation can offer each family.

In addition to spanning the socioeconomic spectrum, Blackbourn says FCIF accommodates a wide range of medical situations. Although the nonprofit uses the word ‘catastrophic,’ she says the fund is actually far-reaching. It’s true that FCIF literature often features cancer patients or someone in a wheelchair; and, indeed, most grant recipients or their family members actually are facing a devastating illness, injury or disability. “However,” Blackbourn adds, “we also help people who are facing other circumstances that still impact their ability to work but that may not affect them for their entire life.” As an example, Blackbourn points out a fairly common situation among flooring installers: double-knee replacement. Being out of work for a prolonged recovery period, she says, could certainly impact someone’s ability to meet their day-to-day financial obligations. In a case like that, FCIF might offer a shorter grant—three months instead of the typical six months, perhaps—to help the worker weather the storm and then return to work.

Taking Care of Our Own

Ironically, another reason Blackbourn cites for FCIF’s low-key profile is the organization’s national scope. “Many nonprofits give directly to other nonprofits or to a very specific kind of local population,” she explains, while FCIF is open to anyone who has worked five years or longer in any segment of the flooring industry—distributors, manufacturers, retailers, installers, suppliers, trade groups—anywhere in the country. While that can actually make it tough to identify candidates, Blackbourn says the organization has gained solid traction in the manufacturing space, where there are fewer players. “We can work with HR departments to get the word out,” she adds, “but when you’re talking about installers, they’re employed by retailers or they’re subcontractors or self-employed.”

To bring more attention to FCIF in the distributor community, the organization has launched a new group with that specific focus. One of the ideas to come forth so far is fairly simple but also potentially impactful: putting brochures out at the different counters that distributors have where installers go to pick up their materials. Meanwhile, a Zoom informational meeting—to be led by board members Paul Murfin and Bob Weiss—has been scheduled for June 30. During this presentation and Q&A session set up exclusively for flooring distributors, attendees can learn more about how FCIF can help.

As far as Blackbourn knows, only Major League Baseball and the Screen Actors Guild have funds similar to FCIF, underscoring how committed flooring outfits are to their people. “That ‘we’re taking care of our own’ sentiment is really special about the flooring industry,” Blackbourn remarks, taking special note of how corporate and individual donors are so willing to give to the cause. FCIF is funded at nearly $1 million a year and, thanks to this generosity, Blackbourn estimates that $500,000 to $700,000 in grants are distributed annually, with no need for a waiting list. “This is a feel-good part of being in the industry,” she says.

Visit fcif.org or call 855.330.1183 to apply for a grant or make a donation.

FULL ARTICLE By Denise Williams, Hub & Spoke