Polis urges Biden to visit fire-ravaged Boulder County once rebuilding starts


Gov. Jared Polis urged President Joe Biden to visit areas ravaged by the Marshall fire when the two spoke Friday just before the governor announced that the White House has approved a disaster declaration for Colorado.  

Federal authorities have quickly authorized disaster assistance for the state and affected residents.

The swift action means federal funding is available to affected individuals in Boulder County. The assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured property. The declaration also means recovery aid for individuals and business owners.

“I also spoke to the president just before this press conference,” Polis said at a press briefing in Boulder County. “The president called. He offered his support for the people of Colorado.”

Polis relayed that the White House gave verbal authorization — which has since been officially finalized — for the major disaster declaration for Colorado.

Gubernatorial spokesperson Shelby Wieman later told Colorado Politics that Biden also conveyed to Polis his “sorrow for our loss and desire to help rebuild.”

“The governor invited the president to visit the affected areas once rebuilding gets underway,” Wieman said.

In addition to declaring an emergency, which allows the state to access emergency funds and provide state resources, the Polis administration took several steps to start aiding individuals and businesses hammered by the fire.

The Colorado Division of Insurance yesterday told health insurance companies to waive any prior authorization for prescription refills or medical equipment.

Health insurance companies must also waive prior authorization, utilization review, or medical necessity determination for patients transferred or discharged in the fire-affected areas, the agency said.

The agency said it is closely monitoring the situation to ensure consumer protections are afforded to affected homeowners. The agency noted that insurance companies must provide homeowners with a copy of their policy within three business days of a request.

The agency also noted that Colorado law mandates insurance companies to immediately pay homeowners who lost their primary residences 30 percent of total contents coverage.

The Polis administration has been urging affected individuals to take advantage of available resources, including behavioral health support from the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assistance Program.

Businesses and nonprofits may also borrow up to $2 million in low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration Assistance to help them repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other assets.

The interest rates can be 2.83% for businesses, 1.875% for nonprofits and 1.438% percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years, the administration noted.  

The Federal Emergency Management Agency already approved Colorado’s request  for a  Fire Management Assistance Grant after determining the Marshall Fire “threatened such destruction that it would constitute a major disaster.”

The decision makes federal funding available to pay for 75 percent of some of Colorado’s firefighting costs, such as expenses for field camps, equipment and tools, repair and replacement, mobilization and demobilization activities, and materials and supplies, the agency said.

During Friday’s press briefing, Polis noted the heartbreak and devastation of losing a home amidst a pandemic and in such an unexpected and swift manner, given the fire erupted during winter and in an urban community, not a forest that often develops and spreads over days, if not weeks.

“We talk about houses destroyed, but each house is not just a house. It’s a home. It’s a sanctuary of comfort for those who live there. It’s a reservoir of memories where families were raised,” Polis said.

The governor promised continued state support for the affected residents and businesses.

“We are going to work hard with families and small businesses to rebuild our treasured communities, our homes and sanctuaries,” he said.


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