Bennet, Udall Urge EDA to Release Disaster Relief Funds to Support Businesses Recovering from Floods

EDA Can Spur Economic Development with Low-Interest Loans in Hard-Hit Communities

October 15, 2013

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall are urging the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to prioritize Colorado flood recovery efforts as it awards grants in the coming months. EDA disaster relief grants help local governments with long-term community economic recovery planning, reconstruction, and redevelopment efforts and are a critical asset for Colorado communities bearing the brunt of devastating floods combined with a government shutdown.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the senators wrote, “The floods have had a devastating impact on the local economies of a number of Colorado’s most popular destinations. Unfortunately, Congressional dysfunction has compounded the problem; by shuttering major local attractions…political gridlock has undermined these communities just as they are trying to get back on their feet.

“[G]iven the needs of these communities that have been impacted by a major federal disaster, we ask the EDA to begin working with local Colorado communities now to make funds available.  And we ask you to work to expedite the EDA’s response to the Colorado flooding as soon as the federal government reopens,” the senators added.

Following September’s historic floods, communities throughout the state have begun long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts. EDA grants can be used to create economic development plans following a disaster, to design and construct infrastructure to retain and attract businesses and create jobs, and to offer low-interest loans to businesses recovering from a disaster.

Bennet, Udall, and Colorado's members of the House of Representatives have worked since the flooding began to ensure Colorado communities and agencies have every federal resource they need to save lives, protect homes and start the recovery process. The Senate passed a bill introduced by Bennet and Udall that would lift the cap on emergency transportation funds available to Colorado to help rebuild the state’s battered roads, bridges and highways in the wake of the flooding. They also led a delegation effort urging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make disaster recovery funds available. They were also instrumental in helping reopen Rocky Mountain National Park and Trail Ridge Road to give Estes Park, which has suffered greatly from the floods, another crucial access route following the closure of U.S. Highways 34 and 36 due to the floods.

Bennet and Udall each spoke from the Senate floor to underscore not only the extent of the disaster itself, but also the resilience and strength Coloradans have shown in the wake of the floods. The lawmakers will continue to coordinate with Colorado's congressional delegation and federal agencies to advocate for additional federal resources to aid in recovery efforts.

Full Text of the Letter:

October 15, 2013

Dear Secretary Pritzker:

We write to request that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) prioritize Colorado’s recent major disaster as it makes grant allocation decisions in the coming months.

As you know, historic rains poured down Colorado in early September, leading to 500-year floods in a number of areas.  These floods forced over 18,000 Coloradans to leave their homes, damaging thousands of structures and hundreds of local businesses.  Nine Coloradans tragically died.

Coloradans are working together in order to begin the recovery process. Across the Front Range, communities are working diligently to clear debris and rebuild. But we also recognize that Colorado communities urgently need economic assistance in order for the recovery to succeed. Many of the businesses that were hit hardest by this emergency rely on a regular flow of tourists coming through Lyons, Estes Park and many other mountain communities that bore the brunt of the flooding last month. 

The floods struck at the height of the tourism season. With major highways washed out and some of these towns rendered far more difficult to reach, the floods have had a devastating impact on the local economies of a number of Colorado’s most popular destinations. Unfortunately, Congressional dysfunction has compounded the problem; by shuttering major local attractions like the Rocky Mountain National Park, political gridlock has undermined these communities just as they are trying to get back on their feet.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) can help address these challenges.  The EDA has played an important role in past similar disasters across the country, supporting recovering communities with additional liquidity.

We recognize that many EDA employees are currently furloughed, and the EDA’s ability to issue new grants may be constrained prior to the end of the shutdown.  Nevertheless, given the needs of these communities that have been impacted by a major federal disaster, we ask the EDA to begin working with local Colorado communities now to make funds available.  And we ask you to work to expedite the EDA’s response to the Colorado flooding as soon as the federal government reopens.

Communities with tourism-dependent economies across Colorado have already benefitted from EDA’s previous investment, both for long-term economic development planning and for disaster recovery efforts. We appreciate the work of the EDA Regional Office staff in Colorado who provided technical assistance to our local communities devastated by the recent wildfires. We look forward to working with the EDA again on this major priority for our state.

Thank you for your consideration.

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