Udall, Bennet Urge Defense Secretary to Keep National Guard on the Job for Flood Recovery Efforts
Guardsmen Prevented from Assisting Due to Potential Government Shutdown
U.S. Senators Mark Udall, who serves of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, and Michael Bennet urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today to ensure active duty National Guardsmen would be allowed to continue to assist Colorado communities rebuilding from the devastating floods in the event of a government shutdown next week. The senators requested that Secretary Hagel designate the guardsmen as exempt to prevent them from being furloughed.
The looming deadline for Congress to pass a bill that keeps the government open past September 30th is already slowing recovery efforts. The potential shutdown is preventing a group of 120 Utah National Guard engineers from traveling to Colorado to help rebuild U.S. Highway 36 and other state highways. Additionally, hundreds of Colorado Guardsmen already aiding recovery efforts may also be furloughed if Congress fails to act.
"Sadly, the threat of a government shutdown has put [these] critical recovery projects on hold and delayed urgently needed road repair projects. Both Colorado and Utah National Guardsmen who were supposed to be mobilized this week have been delayed until after the current budget crisis is resolved because they have not been designated as 'exempt personnel,'" the senators wrote. "While rescue efforts qualify for exemption, recovery work does not. Yet we will likely be rescuing more Coloradans and Americans from flood-isolated towns this winter if rebuilding is delayed any further."
The recent floods damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 square miles over 17 counties on Colorado’s Front Range and tragically took the lives of several Coloradans. Thousands of homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, dozens of bridges have been ruined, and hundreds of miles of highways are in dire need of repair.
Udall, Bennet and Colorado's members of the U.S. House of Representatives have worked since the flooding began to ensure Colorado communities and agencies have every federal resource they need to save lives, protect homes and start the recovery process. Yesterday, they introduced a bill that would lift the cap on emergency funds that can be used for infrastructure-related expenses, ensuring Coloradans had access to crucial resources for recovery efforts. That bill followed last week’s delegation effort urging the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to lift the cap. Udall and Bennet also welcomed the release of last week’s $30 million in emergency transportation funds.