Colorado farmers in search of help two years after devastating flood — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

[Marsha] Baker is among 27 farmers in Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties eligible for federal help who are still awaiting payment, either in the form of grants or reimbursements for repairs already made.

Meanwhile, 19 farmers have been paid in full, according to the state’s Department of Local Affairs.

In all, $5.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds was allocated to agricultural interests in Colorado after the September 2013 flood, which caused nearly $4 billion damage statewide.

Of that total, which comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is administered by DOLA, $1 million has been paid out. Another $1 million will be awarded over the next month.

That leaves $3.5 million still needing to be distributed.

Denise Stepto, communications director for DOLA, said she understands the frustration of farmers still waiting for relief two years later but pointed out that disbursing funds is often an “administrative struggle.”

“Anyone receiving federal dollars is hemmed in by federal rules,” she said.

Those rules include a strict accounting of receipts and other documentation to fulfill reimbursement claims. Delays are also often caused by the need to follow Davis-Bacon rules, federal guidelines stipulating wage levels for contractors working on federally funded or assisted contracts.

“You can’t just have your brother-in-law build your barn,” Stepto said.

She further points out that the state didn’t receive the HUD funds until April 2014 — more than half a year after the historic rains fell…

[Deb] Carpio is one of five farmers whose eligibility for the program has been challenged due to her income level. But that’s an unfair measure to use, she said, because the government looks at a farmer’s gross rather than net income. Farms are expensive to run, she said.

“With your net income, you might be able to afford a hamburger at the end of the year,” Carpio said.

Don Brown, Colorado’s agriculture commissioner, said his agency and DOLA are working with the federal government to alter the eligibility rules to take into account the capital-intensive nature of farming.

“I don’t think the means test they’re using is accurate, and HUD is looking at that,” he said.

Carpio hopes the issue is resolved soon so she and her husband can start paying back the debts they owe for the fixes they have made to their property.

“We don’t just want a handout,” she said, “but when this money was allocated to agricultural people, it should be used for that.”

Flooded corn crop September 2013
Flooded corn crop September 2013

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