The federal government shutdown is already having an impact in Colorado where the state is trying to recover from last week’s massive floods that destroyed or damaged more than 19,000 homes in the state.
On Tuesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the state will pay members of the Colorado National Guard during the shutdown to keep them working. As federal employees, the guardsmen will not be paid during the shutdown.
“We can’t afford to lose one day in rebuilding areas destroyed or damaged by the floods,” Hickenlooper said. “Our National Guard troops are an invaluable part of the team working on the recovery. We need them to stay on the job.”
The state will pay the costs of the National Guard with the hope of recovering 75 percent of the expense from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The state and local governments will pay the remaining 25 percent to help ensure recovery work continues without interruption.
Also Tuesday, the Labor Department awarded a National Emergency Grant to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for up to $4.6 million, with $2.3 million released initially. The grant will create about 230 temporary jobs for eligible individuals to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts.
“We needed quick response and we are getting quick response,” said Jerre Stead, Colorado’s chief recovery officer. “All levels of government and impacted communities share a strong desire to rebuild quickly. Our focus continues to be on repairing as much as possible by the time winter arrives.”
Stead, with the support of his Englewood-based company IHS Inc., put together a small team to coordinate and sequence all activities related to the flood recovery.
This week, the recovery team is selecting a firm to help build a rigorous reporting and action-planning process. The state is also reviewing all policies and regulations to see how the state can speed up the recovery. For example, the Department of Natural Resources suspended two mining-related rules to reduce the time it takes to get materials to rebuild roads and bridges.
Specifically, one rule change allows for a shorter period to obtain necessary permits to extract construction materials. The current time is 20 days; the approved suspension will allow operators to obtain a permit in one to three days.
The second rule change relaxes the processing time when operators seek technical revisions or amendments to permits — particularly where emergency actions are necessary to remediate flooding impacts and to protect public health, safety and the environment — to as little as one day with verbal approval from the current wait of 30 to 90 days.
Stead’s team is also working with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management to finalize the process for allocating $91.5 million in state funds designated so far for response and recovery.