Gov. Jared Polis on Monday distributed more than $1 billion in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but drew ire from Republicans and Joint Budget Committee members for leaving them out of the process.
Colorado received $1.67 billion for state efforts to combat COVID-19. Counties of more than 500,000 populations also got money from the CARES Act; in Colorado, that’s Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, El Paso and Jefferson counties.
Under the executive order, the money was issued as follows:
- $48 million in 2019-20 to the state’s disaster emergency fund, which has been tapped for mortgage and rental assistance and to boost the state’s unemployment insurance system and services, as well as direct aid for pandemic responses. An additional $157 million will go to the disaster fund in 2020-21.
- $1 million to the Department of Corrections for sanitation and social distancing measures in 2019-20 and $7 million in the following year.
- $1 million each year to the Department of Human Services for sanitation and social distancing measures at state veterans' facilities.
- $37 million to the Department of Education in 2020-21 for “second-order effects” of the pandemic, especially for at-risk students affected by the recession.
- $2 million in 2019-20 and $20 million in 2020-21 to the Department of Human Services for additional cases resulting from the recession.
- $10 million to the Department of Local Affairs for emergency rental and mortgage assistance, especially for those ineligible for other kinds of aid, such as unemployment insurance, food benefits or direct federal stimulus payments.
- $510 million in 2019-20 to the Department of Education for distance learning, social distancing, to mitigate lost learning opportunities and instructional support, to be distributed on a per-pupil basis to school districts as well as to the Charter School Institute, the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and $25,000 each to the state’s Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
- $450 million to the Department of Higher Education, to support student retention and completion at the state’s public colleges and universities.
- $28.9 million in 2019-20 and $55.9 million the following year for payroll expenses and other “necessary expenditures” for public safety, public health, health care and human services employees who are dealing with the pandemic.
- $275 million in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 for local governments that did not get CARES Act funding and have expenses related to the pandemic.
- Finally, $70 million to the state general fund for eligible expenditures.
Polis announced the executive order Monday evening, alongside Democratic leaders of the General Assembly.
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Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, said that as “members of the legislature, we will continue working hard alongside the Governor and the Joint Budget Committee to protect Coloradans during this challenging time. However we need Congress to do much more, especially for those communities like mine in Pueblo that the CARES Act explicitly left behind.”
But the action apparently didn’t include notifying the JBC or Republican lawmakers about the executive order or how the CARES Act money would be spent.
Sen. Bob Rankin, a Carbondale Republican and the senior member of the JBC, said Monday that “the staff and members of the Joint Budget Committee, liaisons for dozens of state departments and programs, and representatives from every sector of our society have been hunkered down for the last 2½ months attempting to develop a budget despite historic decreases in revenue. For the governor to announce this allocation of funds – without so much as consulting the chief budgeting body – is not only a lapse in leadership but has now eliminated the people’s voice over how their money is spent. To say that I’m disappointed would be putting it lightly. How do we build a budget around the whims of one man with no deliberative process?”
Fellow JBC member Rep. Kim Ransom, a Littleton Republican, also noted she had not been informed about the executive order.
However, an April 3 JBC staff memo noted that the governor had the authority to dispense some of those funds and would not need appropriation authority from the General Assembly.
It’s the second time in the past week that Republicans have complained that they’re being left out of important decisions. Democratic leadership announced last week that the General Assembly would resume the 2020 session on May 26, an announcement that Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker said he found out from the news media.