Larimer County: 2013 flood recovery reimbursement funds slow to come in

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - As Colorado recovers nearly a year after devastating floods, frustration is mounting over relief money.

The state receives money from FEMA and then distributes it to communities, once flood repairs have been made.

The state is very clear: this is a reimbursement system -- so, the work must be completed before cities and counties get paid back. But it is that process causing some concern in places like Larimer County.

"We feel like we're making really good progress on flood recovery," said County Manager Linda Hoffmann.

Hoffmann does say, however, the federal reimbursement funds for helping to make repairs are coming more slowly than expected.

"It's hard to classify it as either good or bad," she said. "It's just kind of reality."

As a result, Larimer is dipping deeper into its reserves, now using TABOR reserves.

"Is the government being stingy with money here?" 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn asked Kevin Klein, the director of Colorado's Homeland Security and Emergency Management office.

"No," said Klein. "If the projects are eligible, that's one thing; it has to be related to flood recovery, and it has to be in one of the eligible programs."

Klein said in Larimer County's case, some paperwork wasn't filed sufficiently.

"And we've been working individually with them, one on one," said Klein. "We've done a lot recently to speed up that process."

Hoffmann believes the documentation required can be overly complicated, given the enormity of this disaster.

"What drywall was removed from the building? Where is a picture of that stacked on the curb? And then, let's see that same drywall on the truck on its way to the landfill," she said of one example.

Larimer County is still waiting on reimbursements from recovery after the High Park Fire two years ago.

If the documentation meets all requirements, FEMA pays for 75 percent of flooding recovery and repairs. The state of Colorado is kicking in an additional 12.5 percent, and then communities must come up with the final 12.5 percent.

"The state was assuring us that we would get reimbursements in a very quick turnaround," said Hoffmann. "It's been a little slower than we had hoped for. Their programs are very complicated and so what you read in one section of their requirements may not be exactly matched up with what you read in another section."

Klein said other communities, like Longmont, haven't had trouble providing detailed and sufficient documentation.

"We've done a lot in the state to make sure that we are improving our system," he said. "In order to get the money to the local jurisdictions as quickly as possible."

In some instances, Klein said they are able to cut checks and then conduct a detailed review after the checks are out the door.

"And frankly, the communities are doing a much better job getting the information to us and we're turning it around faster than we have in the past."

Hoffmann said the paperwork alone is a massive undertaking.

"If it were a smaller amount of area affected by the floods that we were dealing with, that would have been more realistic."

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