Because of federal government shutdown, state will pay National Guard to continue flood recovery

Two stretches of Highway 34 to reopen soon

DENVER - Despite the federal government shutdown, work being done by national guardsmen to repair U.S. 36 between Lyons and Estes Park will continue, Colorado's governor assured.

Gov. John Hickenlooper held a news conference Tuesday, about nine hours after the federal government shut down.

Hickenlooper said the shutdown will cause an impact on how the National Guard is funded. Because of that, the state will pay those guardsmen to keep them on the job.

"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," Hickenlooper said.

The work will cost the state $10,000 to $20,000 per day.

"We need them to stay on the job," Hickenlooper said. "We want to make sure we don’t lose a single day in getting these roads open."

The state hopes to recover 75 percent of the expense from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The state and local governments will pay the remaining 25 percent to help ensure that recovery work continues without interruption. 

Hickenlooper also announced several roads will reopen in the next 24-36 hours.

"Today or tomorrow we’re going to get one of the critical roads open, Route 34 from Greeley to Kersey," Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper said that stretch of road is a key link in Weld County and is essential for the harvest.

Hickenlooper also said a stretch of Highway 34 from County Road 27 to the Dam Store will open in the next 24-36 hours.

State highways 16 and 31 have already reopened, Hickenlooper said.

More than half of Colorado's roads impacted by the flooding have reopened, officials said.

Fifteen of the 17 Colorado counties impacted by the September flooding have been approved for federal aid, according to Chief Recovery Officer Jerre Stead.

As for money from the federal government, Hickenlooper said quite a bit of FEMA and federal funds have already been released.

"FEMA has reassured us they are committed to supporting Colorado’s disaster recovery," Hickenlooper said. "Ongoing projects will continue unabated."

Hickenlooper announced that the Department of Labor has just awarded the Colorado Department of Labor $4.6 million, 50 percent of which will be released immediately, to hire temporary workers for the clean up and recovery.

The governor's office also reported that FEMA has approved $33.9 million for individual assistance, so far. The Small Business Administration has approved $1.4 million for disaster assistance.

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