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Colo. flood relief snared in shutdown debate
DENVER — Democrats are sending mixed messages over whether the government shutdown will hamper Colorado’s flood-recovery efforts.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden announced last week that the then-looming shutdown would have no impact on disaster relief, but he’s since been contradicted by Colorado Democrats who insist that the shutdown will play havoc with the recovery.
“A shutdown, the product of extreme, right-wing Republicans trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act, would endanger needed flood-recovery and rebuilding efforts,” said a statement on the Colorado Democratic Party website posted Sept. 24, the same day as Mr. Biden’s comments.
Republicans would “rather fight the tired political battles of the past than fund the government and rebuilding efforts Coloradans urgently need before the winter snowfall,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio in a statement late last week.
Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, linked the events in a Friday message on Twitter: “As we recover from the floods, government shutdown is the last thing Colorado needs now.”
But that wasn’t the message Tuesday from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also a Democrat, who said the relief efforts would proceed without interruption. He announced he’s using state funds to pay for National Guard engineers working to repair U.S. 36 between Lyons and Estes Park, which was badly damaged in September’s epic floods.
“That is such a critical roadway that we are going to pay them out of our emergency resources until the federal government gets things squared away,” said Mr. Hickenlooper at a press conference, as reported by KMGH-TV.
The Democratic governor said the state has already received significant relief funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“FEMA has reassured us they are committed to supporting Colorado’s disaster recovery,” Mr. Hickenlooper said. “Ongoing projects will continue unabated.”
The governor’s remarks echoed Mr. Biden’s emphatic assurances that federal disaster relief would not be interrupted.
“The truth of the matter is, there’s reason to be scared, but not in terms of disaster relief,” said Mr. Biden during his Sept. 24 stop in Greeley, Colo., to view the flooding aftermath. “None of the federal assistance that we’re providing — none of it — is going to be impacted, even if there’s a government shutdown.”
Those assurances haven’t stemmed media reports on the shutdown’s potential impact on flood recovery, such as Monday’s story by the Associated Press, which appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette under the headline, “Possible shutdown could hurt Colorado flood recovery.”
“We don’t want to overly alarm people, but when we’re racing for the winter, any of these delays can be problematic,” said Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi in the article.
A Denver Post report Saturday raised questions about Mr. Biden’s ability to deliver, saying, “Although politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden, have vowed that a shutdown would not interrupt flood-relief efforts, it was unclear Saturday whether that was true.”
Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, said in a statement the day after the shutdown took effect that he’s confident Mr. Biden will stand by his word on disaster relief. The historic floods resulted in eight deaths and brought destruction to 17 counties along a 200-mile strip of the Front Range.
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About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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