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FEMA Demands A Refund From Flood-Ravaged Colorado Town

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency is asking residents of a Colorado town nearly wiped off the map in last year’s historic floods to give back emergency funds used to rebuild roads and clear debris.

The money, totaling about $150,000, was given in error, the agency said. And it wants it back.

According to Denver’s CBS 4, the money was given to residents of Glen Haven, a small town in the Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland that was all but destroyed by torrential floodwaters last September. Because much of the property in the town is privately owned and unincorporated, residents shouldn’t have qualified for emergency aid doled out in $20,000 increments.

That money has been instrumental in allowing residents to repair a road wiped out by the flood that cut off access to several homes.

“They said, ‘You do qualify for this, you should receive this,’” local resident Joan Van Horn told the station, speaking of the FEMA grant received in January. “Of course we’re grateful and we have real good use for it, this road, and so to take it back was a real shock.”

FEMA only recently discovered the mistake, saying that because the town has an association, it shouldn’t have gotten the money in the first place. The agency, according to CBS 4, is required by law to be reimbursed.

Residents told the station that almost all of Glen Haven’s reconstruction came from private donations of both cash and equipment, and from volunteer, neighbor-to-neighbor labor.

“Without that we wouldn’t have what we have today,” Dave Johnson, the president of the Glen Haven Association, told the station.

But residents also said the federal aid money was critical in repairing the road connecting homeowners to the outside world. They plan to appeal FEMA’s request for reimbursement.

If they lose the appeal, the state may step in to help.

“We want to step up and try to resolve it favorably to the affected citizens,” Gov. John Hickelooper said. “They’ve been through so much; the last thing we want is to have to have them hassle through one more thing.”

Many other Colorado communities are still recovering from the flood, which began in the wake of torrential rainfall on Sept. 9, 2013. Flooding stripped roadbeds out of mountain canyons, carried away homes and businesses and resulted in at least 10 deaths.

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