Colorado communities that experienced significant damage in the September floods will get $62.8 million more for long-term recovery efforts, thanks to an infusion of federal emergency funds announced on Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan announced the allocation of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds at a press conference, then traveled to Evans to meet with local officials.
The HUD emergency program provides flexible dollars to help rebuild communities affected by disasters, especially in areas with limited resources, according to a news release.
The funds can be used for housing, economic development and infrastructure repairs, and improving affected areas so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.
Funding may also go to individual Colorado homeowners to help with repair and replacement costs.
HUD officials said on Thursday that 80 percent of the nearly $63 million will go to Weld, Boulder and Larimer counties.
Donovan said in an interview before the closed-door meeting in Evans that this allocation should be something of a “down payment.”
He said HUD decided to allocate some money now because of the urgency following the flood disaster.
“In the past, we have waited to see what the gaps are,” Donovan said. He said he and Colorado officials hope to see more HUD money come to the state next year.
“The senator and governor have reminded me a number of times today that that is their expectation,” Donovan said as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, nudged him in a show of camaraderie. “And it’s mine, too.”
Hickenlooper said his office has done a rough outline of how to allocate the money and came up with about 63 percent for housing, 22 percent for small businesses, and 15 percent for public infrastructure.
“But our next step is to go out to Evans and go out to Greeley and go out to Jamestown and Longmont and say, ‘Here’s where we think the division should be for this money. What are your priorities?’” Hickenlooper said.
He said the flexibility of the program also means the money could be used to fix or replace damaged property like irrigation equipment, and the money will allow Colorado communities to push forward projects that otherwise wouldn’t have been tackled for months.
“It is a godsend, and I cannot express how grateful we are,” Hickenlooper said.
Donovan said the devastation he saw on Thursday was “of a scale that nobody could ever imagine.”
“It is painful and fresh every time I see it,” he said of his time touring devastated communities.
But Donovan said he felt the state has made great strides in recovery in a short period of time, which gives him confidence that things will get better.
Bennet and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, in September took the lead in writing a letter to Donovan urging him to make the HUD funds available — a move that “showed courage,” Donovan said, considering the funds were already allocated to recovery following Hurricane Sandy.
Bennet said the funding was “critical” for small towns affected by the flood.
“Colorado has presented such a unified front here,” he said, which made the request possible.