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//City and County of Denver workers collect specimen samples from city residents at a temporary COVID-19 testing site at Ruby Hill Park on Nov. 23. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | este.fdez20b@gmail.com

The pandemic finish line is in sight, but before we can get there, winter is throwing us one more hurdle.

The Colorado General Assembly recently passed a $342 million pandemic relief package. Among the items that got a small shot in the arm from the state government were housing and utility relief, food security, childcare and small business relief. 

However, what do those million-dollar amounts look like on the ground? We’ve compiled the list below for the average person who doesn’t have time to follow how the relief dollars funnel down to local government. We’ve gone through and listed what sorts of programs are funded with the money provided by the general assembly, as well as ways to get in touch with city or state officials responsible for managing these funds. 

Keep in mind, though, since we’re a hyperlocal publication mostly focused on Denver, our scope is limited in most cases to the city itself. That said, we are also providing links to state-level resources to make it easier for people outside of Denver to find the resources their counties are providing.

Although the state can only provide millions where billions are needed, at the very least, some of these programs might keep the light and heat on for families in need. We hope this guide will provide some assistance for the weeks ahead. 

 

 

State Level

Although the General Assembly approved $342 million in relief funds for Coloradans, that money won’t be directly handed out by the state. Instead, the state will disburse those funds to Colorado’s 64 different counties. Each county is then responsible for helping municipal governments fund their disaster relief programs. 

Most of the funds are then allocated to and distributed by non-profit organizations. To that end, the state provides a handy tool for locating what nonprofits or agencies are near you. That can be found here. The tool can be used to search for housing, food and other services statewide. 

Also, don’t forget that the state’s public benefits program, administered through Colorado PEAK, is the best way to apply for certain state benefits such as food stamps, medical care assistance, cash and other services. 

The simplest way to get connected with local services funded by the relief bill is to visit your local county website and see what programs are available. However, the state websites listed above also make for a good starting point.

 

Denver

Housing

SB20B-002: Housing and Direct COVID Emergency Assistance

What: $44.5 million to Housing Development Fund

$5 million for the Emergency Direct Assistance Grant

$1 million for eviction defense

SB20B-003: Money for Energy Utility Payment Assistance

What: $5 million in utility help

Denver relies on its network of nonprofit affiliates to help deliver aid to those in need during this crisis. 

Nonprofits like Family Tree, The Salvation Army, and Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. are among the network of organizations that the city of Denver is relying on to distribute aid money. They are the ones working directly with residents to make sure Denverites get through the winter. Programs such as the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance for Households program are administered through local agencies. Dial 211 or visit the website for help connecting with an agency.

However, while several of these programs and agencies are conducting the work of helping people, it will take some time for the new money from the state to reach the counties. Joseph Rios, communications coordinator for Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. confirmed that the nonprofits teaming up with Denver are waiting for the state to publish guidance and make the money available. He did indicate that the state was working urgently to do so. 

Fortunately, when the money is made available, Denver already has existing networks and pathways to deliver support. First, the city has a tool in place to help residents connect with services called Denver 311. By dialing 311, residents can connect to the type of support they seek. The service is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For those facing eviction, Denver has a legal defense fund, which supports legal services to fight the proceedings. Residents who qualify can apply on the website. Five million dollars was also provided for undocumented residents who do not qualify for other forms of aid. According to the Colorado Sun, that money will be managed by a group of nonprofits coordinated by investment group Impact Charitable.

A list of other groups working to assist the undocumented community can be found on the Informed Immigrant website.  

As far as help with utility bills goes, Colorado offers the Low-income Energy Assistance Program. The program is administered at the state level, meaning any potential applicant must apply through the state’s public benefits portal, PEAK

Payments obtained through these services for housing or utility help will be paid directly to a landlord, lender, servicer or utility company.

Food

HB20B-1003: Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program

What: $5 million through the end of March to food pantries

Food pantries received a large boost to help feed Coloradans who are having trouble putting food on the table. The city provides a Food Assistance tool to help residents find what kind of food assistance is available, as well as where food pantries are located and which are open.

Childcare

HB20B-1002: Emergency Relief Programs for Child Care Sector

What: $45 million to prop up the child care industry in Colorado

Although it’s not money paid to families for direct childcare costs, it will go to ensure childcare professionals don’t have to close their doors. The state will administer the program. Money will be distributed to licensed professionals, with allowances made for businesses that are in the process of getting certified. Those in need of a license can go to the Colorado Office of Early Childhood for more information.

Small Business

SB20B-1001: COVID-19 Relief Small and Minority Businesses Arts Organizations

What: $37 million in small business relief payments 

$7.5 million for arts and entertainment

$4 million for the Minority Business Office

Although the state is setting aside a large sum of money for small business, the money will be targeted to businesses that have been impacted the most by pandemic restrictions. As of publication, Denver hasn’t yet received any money and city officials are waiting on guidance from the state on how they’re going to move forward. However, Leesly Leon from Denver’s Office of Economic Development said the city has the expertise and experience to get the funds distributed to businesses that need it the most.

“We have had a model to help small businesses since March 19. So far we’ve deployed 10 million dollars, so we do have systems and processes that could be applied to this distribution of funds. But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same programs,” she said.

Currently, the previous round of grant programs ended on Nov. 22, with all previous funds distributed by Dec. 4. City officials are due to attend a webinar with state officials to discuss how the grant process is going to work. Leon said that more information on the application process will become available closer to Jan. 8.

Businesses can expect to receive the following amounts once the money is made available. According to the bill:

    • $3,500 for businesses that had less than $500,000 in sales in 2019.
    • $5,000 for businesses with sales between $500k and $1 million.
    • $7,000 for businesses with sales between $1-2.5 million.

Four million dollars is also being provided to the state’s Minority Business Office, with grants ranging between $5,000 and $8,000.

Although counties that violate the state’s public health orders won’t be eligible for the assistance, cities that are in good standing with health orders can still apply for the relief funds.