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The Denver City Hall building.

As the city continues to prepare to spend its portion of the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan, the funding priorities of city council members were announced Thursday.

Brendan Hanlon, Denver’s chief financial officer, said his office has met one-on-one with each council member and released a list of their summarized priorities during the city council budget and policy committee meeting.

While Denver hasn’t yet received any funding or guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department, officials are trying to establish allocation plans to expedite distribution when the funding comes in.

“It’s an effort to be prepared as we possibly can,” Hanlon said. “We want to have a thoughtful process that is socialized before that check comes.”

Generally, the funding can be used to pay for economic recovery, city services, infrastructure investment and pandemic response, which Hanlon used to organize the city council members' priorities:

Economic recovery:

  • Workforce – training, recruitment, expansion of construction careers program, creating jobs, providing opportunities for disadvantaged workers
  • Small business support – lease and rent support, removal of barriers
  • Neighborhoods – business navigators, grants for events and activation
  • Individual support – rent and utility assistance, eviction legal defense, food assistance, cash assistance, left behind workers fund, addressing digital divide

City services:

  • Eliminate furloughs for city employees
  • Restore services – libraries, recreation centers, trash collection, housing and homelessness support
  • Supplement services – business support, youth support, workforce support, housing and homelessness support

Infrastructure investments:

  • Safe and accessible outdoor spaces – maintaining and improving open spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, athletic fields
  • Transportation networks – maintaining and improving sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit, trails, climate investments
  • Mobility safety – safe routes to schools, speed treatments, Vision Zero safe streets program
  • Facility improvements – addressing reopening and service needs, reopening public restrooms

Hanlon said the city plans to distribute the funding in a timely, equitable and financially sustainable way; however, without specific guidelines from the federal government, they can’t be certain where the funding is allowed to go.

Officials are also still unsure how much relief funding Denver will receive as it depends on whether it is considered a city, county or consolidated government.

“We are making the argument that we have both functions of a city and a county in our organization, and we should be eligible for both allocations,” Hanlon said. “The U.S. Treasury is going through that deliberative process right now.”

Based on the distinction, Denver could get $140.04 million, $170.04 million or $310.08 million from the federal government.

In addition to the $140.04 million to $310.08 million going to the local government, funding could also be allocated directly to other agencies and regional partners.

This could mean direct funding for vaccine distribution, public health workers, the Paycheck Protection Program, restaurants, venues, libraries, SNAP, Denver Public Schools, the Denver International Airport, Denver Water, RTD and more.

On Thursday, Councilwoman Robin Kniech requested that the city host listening sessions to get public input on where the relief funding should go.

Hanlon said public input is a high priority and they’re actively discussing how to facilitate those conversations, to which Council President Stacie Gilmore suggested district-specific meetings between council members and constituents.

“I think this is a great time for council to listen to the community,” Gilmore said.

The city council budget and policy committee will continue discussing funding distribution plans during its meetings on May 20 and May 27. Once a plan is finalized, it will be presented to and voted on by the whole council.

Of the funding, 50% will be sent to Denver in 2021 and the other 50% will be sent in 2022. All of the money must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.

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