It’s already been a month since Colorado was awash in raging floodwaters but relief has been slow to arrive in part due to the government shutdown. Now weeks after the torrential rains pummeled an area nearly the size of Connecticut, causing more than a dozen counties to be declared disaster areas, a provision to speed emergency funds to help Colorado rebuild has been included as part of the Senate compromise on the CR to fund the government for several months.
According to The Washington Post, Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet convinced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include the bill in the deal Reid struck with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Currently Colorado is only eligible to receive up to $100 million in emergency highway funds, but the measure will increase this to up to $450 million in Federal Highway Administration funding.
The economic toll of the flood is still being calculated, but as of last week initial tallies were staggering with estimates of $430 million to repair damage to roads and bridges and $760 million to fix public infrastructure. The risk-modeling firm Eqecat estimated that total economic damages could exceed $2 billion when costs for lodging expenses for displaced people and restoring services are factored in.
Another part of the cost, which will not be paid for by government funds, will include cleaning up the more than 43,000 gallons of oil and more than 18,000 gallons of so-called “produced water” from hydraulic fracturing that was released during the floods.
Congress lifted the emergency cap for states hit by other recent disasters including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.
“Lifting this cap removes an important political roadblock, and will make available crucial resources we need to get people moving around the state again. Coloradans have been resilient and patient, but it’s time to let us get to work so we can repair and reopen key access routes to communities affected by the floods,” Bennet said in a joint release issued by the two Colorado Democrats.
The government shutdown has already slowed Colorado’s recovery efforts as National Guard units helping with repairs were furloughed. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the beginning of the shutdown that he would use state funds to pay the 120 National Guard members working on flood recovery — workers who are normally paid by FEMA.
Earlier this week the state announced they were paying to have members of the Kansas National Guard help with repairs. Snow has already fallen in Colorado along parts of the Front Range that were hit by flooding, and time is of the essence as winter sets in.