Last week, Colorado US Senator Michael Bennet announced that state and local governments in Colorado will receive more than $5.7 billion in funding as municipalities work to rebuild and recover from the economic fallout of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The funding, which was established by the American Rescue Plan Act, will be sourced from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
“The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has taken a toll on communities across Colorado, and we still have some hard months ahead as our local communities continue to rebuild and recover,” said Bennet. “Through these funds in the American Rescue Plan, Colorado state and local governments will receive much-needed, flexible funding to support a wide range of efforts, from investing in broadband to helping the hardest-hit businesses reopen their doors to funding our public health infrastructure. This support will help us bridge our way out of this pandemic into an economy that provides opportunity to all.”
Kiowa County, the least populated county in the six counties making up southeastern Colorado, will receive $273,099. Cheyenne County will receive $355,650. Otero is set to receive $3,550,287. Prowers will receive $2,364,268 along with Bent County receiving $1,083,267 and Baca County $695,567.
Colorado state government will receive a total of $3,828,761,790. Counties in the state will receive a total of $1,118,566,954. Metropolitan cities will receive a total of $551,290,906. Non-entitlement units of local government – defined as areas with populations of 50,000 or fewer people – will receive a total of $265,396,436.
The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds will provide a total of $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments across the nation. One of the key elements in Biden pushing the plan for municipality funding was the caveat that there be enough flexibility in spending to allow state and local governments to spend funding where and how they deem necessary to meet their communities’ needs. Funding can be devoted to providing support for households, small businesses, industries that have been impacted by the health crisis, essential workers, and the communities hardest hit by the crisis.
In addition to allowing for flexible spending up to the level of their revenue loss, recipients can use funds to support public health expenditures, by – among other uses – funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, mental health and substance misuse treatment, and certain public health and safety personnel responding to the crisis.
Funding can also be used to address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including rehiring public sector workers, providing aid to households facing food and housing or insecurity, offering assistance to small businesses and extending support for industries that have been the hardest hit by the crisis.
Recipients can also use funds to aid communities and populations that have been severely impacted by the crisis, supporting an equitable recovery by addressing not only the immediate harms of the pandemic, but the longstanding public health, economic, and educational disparities that have been both revealed and exacerbated over the past fourteen months.
There is also the option for recipients to provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those individuals who have borne and will continue to bear the greatest risks to their health because of their service during the pandemic.
Finally, this funding, which has been allocated in response to one of the most devastating crises across numerous fronts that this nation has endured in a generation, can also be used for the accomplishment of long term goals that have yet to be realized, including investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, improving access to clean drinking water, supporting vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and expanding much needed access to broadband internet in those communities that continue to have that need unmet.
Described by supporters as “a once in a lifetime opportunity in response to hopefully a once in a lifetime crisis,” the emphasis is on local municipalities putting the funding to good use in ways that have clear and tangible benefits to the communities where they are located and inspires – for not just the municipalities, themselves, but the people and businesses those municipalities serve -- in rebuilding and recovering from the most devastating economic crisis in close to a century.