Bennet, Polis Urge FEMA to Reimburse Counties for Disaster Recovery Projects

Lawmakers send letters of support for Boulder County and other communities

DENVER – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Representative Jared Polis this week sent letters to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator William Long and Regional Administrator Lee dePalo, supporting Boulder County’s request for reimbursements for disaster recovery efforts after the 2013 floods.

“Local governments should have the flexibility to apply objective criteria to determine if a facility meets safety standards based on the specifics of that facility as well as the context in which the facility is located,” the lawmakers wrote to Regional Administrator dePalo. “If upheld, the interpretation made by FEMA Region VIII will negatively impact the ability of local governments to rebuild facilities which meet local safety and function standards in the most resilient and cost-effective manner.”

Due to a recent interpretation of FEMA regulations, Boulder County could lose an expected $40 million in reimbursements for flood recovery projects—several of which have already been completed. The interpretation requires that all disaster recovery projects—regardless of type or location—follow specific, uniform codes in order to be eligible for reimbursement. In the letters, the lawmakers outlined how this is preventing local municipalities from rebuilding in the most resilient and cost-effective way. This is especially true in counties like Boulder, where facilities are located in mountain canyons and therefore should not be subject to the same codes as facilities in locations with different terrains. Other counties, including Larimer, also face the possibility of reimbursement ineligibility.

“This is a serious issue that not only affects Colorado counties, but other communities across the country that will need to or are in the process of rebuilding after a federally declared disaster,” the lawmakers wrote to Administrator Long.

“The Board of County Commissioners truly appreciates the assistance we have received from our federal delegation in addressing FEMA’s determination that some of our county flood recovery projects – all built to local codes and standards – could be ineligible for funding,” said Boulder County Commissioner, Deb Gardner. “We’re concerned that this issue may impact local governments all around Colorado as many municipalities and counties continue to try to finish recovery disaster projects that benefit their residents.”

A copy of the letter to Regional Administrator Lee dePalo is available HERE.

A copy of the letter to Administrator William Long is available HERE.