WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has approved legislation to allow funds from a $20 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to be used to hire public employees who will help Greensburg rebuild from the tornado that destroyed most of the town in May.
Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback said Friday the legislation allows the money, which had previously been awarded to the Kansas Department of Commerce, to be used to hire public-sector employees to help in rebuilding the south-central Kansas town.
The Homeland Security Appropriations bill now goes to a conference committee to reconcile differences with the House version of the bill.
Previously, the grant would not have allowed the money to be used for hiring administrators, zoning officials and inspectors. But the new legislation would allow such hires, Roberts and Brownback said in a news release.
"In working with Gov. Sebelius, Congressman Jerry Moran and state and community leaders, we decided this simple waiver was needed to bring in more expertise to help victims recover and the city planning to continue safely and smoothly," said Roberts, R-Kan.
Brownback, R-Kan., said the new version will give Greensburg leaders more flexibility as the town rebuilds from the May 4 tornado, which was among several storms that killed 12 people in south-central Kansas and destroyed more than 90 percent of the buildings in Greensburg, a town of 1,400 residents.
The U.S. Department of Labor said congressional action was needed to make the allowance, similar to action that was taken as part of Katrina legislation.
In order to reconcile the issue, the Department of Labor provided Roberts and Brownback with language they offered as an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was approved late Thursday by the Senate.