Possible Shutdown Could Hurt Colorado Flood Recovery

By | October 2, 2013

While officials promise that direct aid to Colorado flooding victims won’t be affected by a possible government shutdown, a standoff in Washington could still end up hurting the state’s recovery efforts.

Emergency funding distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and Housing and Urban Development department to help people rebuild their homes and businesses would still continue to flow if there is a shutdown. However, worker furloughs in those agencies could still potentially slow operations.

“We don’t want to overly alarm people, but when we’re racing for the winter, any of these delays can be problematic,” a spokesman for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Adam Bozzi, said.

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner said he expected the White House to follow through on its promise not to let a shutdown affect those hurt by flooding.

“When Vice President Biden visited Colorado last week, I stood feet away from him as he promised that none of the federal assistance that we’re providing – none of it is – going to be impacted even if there is a government shutdown,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, help rebuilding Colorado’s roads before cold sets in could depends on how National Guard members from other states will be paid if there is a partial government shutdown.

The 1.4 million active-duty military personnel would stay on duty and under a last-minute bill, they should keep getting paychecks on time. That bill included National Guard members.

About 450 Guard members from Utah, Kansas and Wyoming are expected to help rebuild roads in October and November, Capt. Darin Overstreet of the Colorado National Guard said. While Colorado Guard members who flew evacuation helicopters, filled sandbags and were posted to security checkpoints were on active state duty and paid by the state, road engineering units from other states would be paid by the federal government under training status, he said.

Members of the Utah National Guard’s 1457th Engineer Battalion plan to help rebuild U.S. Highway 36 to Rocky Mountain National Park as early as this week. Its members have built roads in Iraq and Afghanistan and also did repairs following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state would consider using its own emergency funds to pay the National Guard to help with road construction.

“If these knuckleheads in Washington can’t get it together, then we’ll pay them out of our emergency management fund. We cannot let them stop the work that they’re doing. We just can’t,” he said.

The floods killed eight people, damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged an initial $35 million for roads, and Colorado has allocated $100 million. On Monday, both the U.S. House and Senate passed bills lifting the $100 million cap on emergency road funding for the state.

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