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Possible Government Shutdown Could Hurt Colorado Flood Recovery

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A road damaged from flooding (credit: CBS)

A road damaged from flooding (credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – While officials promise that direct aid to Colorado flooding victims won’t be affected by a possible government shutdown, a standoff in Washington could still end up hurting the state’s recovery efforts.

Emergency funding distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and Housing and Urban Development department to help people rebuild their homes and businesses would still continue to flow if there is a shutdown. However, worker furloughs in those agencies could still potentially slow operations.

“We don’t want to overly alarm people, but when we’re racing for the winter, any of these delays can be problematic,” a spokesman for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Adam Bozzi, said.

Republican Rep. Cory Gardner said he expected the White House to follow through on its promise not to let a shutdown affect those hurt by flooding.

“When Vice President Biden visited Colorado last week, I stood feet away from him as he promised that ‘none of the federal assistance that we’re providing – none of it is – going to be impacted even if there is a government shutdown,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, help rebuilding Colorado’s roads before cold sets in could be delayed depending on how National Guard members from other states will be paid if there is a partial government shutdown.

About 450 Guard members from Utah, Kansas and Wyoming are expected to help rebuild roads in October and November, Capt. Darin Overstreet of the Colorado National Guard said. While Colorado Guard members who flew evacuation helicopters, filled sandbags and were posted to security checkpoints were on active state duty and paid by the state, road engineering units from other states would be paid by the federal government under training status, he said. Paying those engineering units could be a problem, depending on what kind of funding arrangement would be made in the event of a shutdown.

Members of the Utah National Guard’s 1457th Engineer Battalion plan to help rebuild U.S. Highway 36 Rocky Mountain National Park as early as this week. Its members have built roads in Iraq and Afghanistan and also did repairs following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The battalion sent 50 members to survey the area and preposition equipment last week and initially, partially blamed the possible shutdown for not sending all 120 soldiers to start construction immediately. However, spokesman Lt. Col. Hank McIntire said Monday that was incorrect and blamed the delay on the normal logistical problems at the end of the federal fiscal year.

Nevertheless, Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall have both asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to ensure that the unit is not affected by the shutdown.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state would consider using its own emergency funds to pay the National Guard to help with road construction.

“If these knuckleheads in Washington can’t get it together, then we’ll pay them out of our emergency management fund. We cannot let them stop the work that they’re doing. We just can’t,” he said.

The floods killed eight people, damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes, more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 state bridges.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has pledged an initial $35 million for roads, and Colorado has allocated $100 million. On Monday, both the U.S. House and Senate passed bills lifting the $100 million cap on emergency road funding for the state.

Colorado Floods: How To Help

The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.

- By Colleen Slevin, AP Writer

Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno contributed to this report.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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