Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today urged Congressional leadership to work together to keep the government running and avoid any interruptions in flood recovery efforts. FEMA has pledged to go to great lengths to ensure that crucial disaster response and recovery services are not interrupted. However, federal disaster assistance could be disrupted or delayed if the government shuts down next week.
In a letter to House and Senate leadership, the senators wrote, “With colder weather expected in Colorado communities in a matter of weeks, time is of the essence. From the perspective of Colorado families and communities struggling with the magnitude of the recovery, this is the worst possible time for Congress to shut down the federal government. Although it is difficult to predict with precision the effects of failing to pass a continuing resolution, a shutdown could, at the very least, disrupt and complicate an already difficult recovery process.”
The Washington Post reported today on the threat a shutdown poses to federal assistance to help rebuild and recover from the catastrophic floods.
Members of the Colorado delegation 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. Earlier this week, Colorado's senators introduced a bill that would lift the cap on emergency funds that can be used for infrastructure-related expenses, ensuring Coloradans have access to crucial resources for recovery efforts. Colorado's members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced bipartisan companion legislation on Wednesday. That bill followed last week’s delegation effort urging the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to lift the cap.
Full Text of the Letter Below:
Dear Speaker Boehner, Rep. Pelosi, Senator Reid and Senator McConnell:
We write to express our deep concern about the potential threat of a government shutdown, and the effects that it could have on the flood recovery efforts that have just begun in Colorado.
The recent flooding damaged at least 17,000 homes and other structures—several thousand of which were outright destroyed. Millions of dollars of public infrastructure has been swept away. Specifically, over 200 miles of Colorado roads and at least 50 bridges have been damaged or destroyed. At least eight Coloradans tragically died in the floods. The floods consumed an area of Colorado that is twice the size of Rhode Island. All of us have seen the devastation with our own eyes, and it defies belief. Houses have been leveled, reduced to piles of debris. Some of these communities literally lie in ruins.
President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for our state in the immediate aftermath of the flooding. That declaration is already making federal recovery assistance available to households and communities sorely in need of immediate aid. More than 16,000 Colorado households have already applied for FEMA assistance, and that number will likely rise in the coming days.
In the event of a government shutdown, we understand that FEMA will go to great lengths to ensure that crucial disaster response and recovery services are not interrupted. We are grateful that FEMA personnel, engaged in life-saving operations and other immediate response activities, will be deemed essential in the event of a shutdown.
Nonetheless, a number of FEMA employees, both based in Washington and at the FEMA Region Eight office in Denver, are vulnerable to furloughs in the event of a shutdown. We are concerned that the furloughs resulting from a shutdown could inevitably remove some key staff who are currently overseeing the process in Colorado, increasing the likelihood of errors that could impact Colorado families just beginning to rebuild. We also worry that a shutdown could slow down FEMA’s ability to approve certain recovery projects funded through FEMA public assistance, which towns and local communities hit by this flooding need to have expedited.
Moreover, the budgetary dysfunction could further disrupt employees at a range of other federal departments and agencies involved in a government-wide response to the crisis in Colorado. Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado congressional delegation are working closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and a number of other federal agencies involved in the response. Furloughing thousands of full-time employees at these agencies will inevitably slow down the federal government’s ability to respond efficiently to the situation in our state. And the mobilization of national guard personnel to help with the recovery could also be disrupted.
With colder weather expected in Colorado communities in a matter of weeks, time is of the essence. From the perspective of Colorado families and communities struggling with the magnitude of the recovery, this is the worst possible time for Congress to shut down the federal government. Although it is difficult to predict with precision the effects of failing to pass a continuing resolution, a shutdown could, at the very least, disrupt and complicate an already difficult recovery process.
We ask that you to work together to pass a continuing resolution as quickly as possible. Congress has a responsibility to Coloradans, and to the American people, to keep the federal government functioning free of unnecessary disruptions. The last thing our state needs right now is a major interruption in federal funding and federally-provided services.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.