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Denver is going to spend 30% of its $308 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funds on restoring and supplementing city services that were cut during the pandemic.

The City Council approved this spending plan Monday, solidifying the first distribution of the $308 million granted to Denver through the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March.

Since the city only received 50% of the federal funds this year, the 30% plan will provide $46.2 million for the service restoration package in 2021. The other half will be distributed in 2022.

“It assures that a majority of the funds goes towards pandemic response and economic recovery,” said Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon during a committee meeting. “It also requires that we have discipline over the four years that these funds are available to transition these expenditures from the grant into the general fund.”

Of the $46.2 million, $26.3 million will go towards agency restoration, $17.3 million towards citywide furloughs and $2.6 million towards supplementing agency services.

The spending plan focuses primarily on filling vacant positions cut during the pandemic, since restoring all service cuts would cost more than the $308 million the federal government is providing, Hanlon said.

The full $46.2 million would only address 45% to 50% of Denver’s position cuts made during the pandemic, according to Budget and Management Director Stephanie Adams.

Adams said, on average, the budgets of city agencies were cut by 4% in 2021, though some budgets were increased — like for the Department of Housing Stability and Office of Children’s Affairs — and other agencies decreased by more than 4% — including the departments of finance and transportation.

“We actually froze, reduced or unbudgeted about 400 positions going into 2021,” Adams said during a committee meeting. “This package recommends 270 positions, mostly restoration.”

The plan includes distributing $6.1 million to the fire department, $3.9 million to parks and recreation, $2.4 million to the police, $1.79 million to transportation, $1.8 million to general services, $1.75 million to technology services, $1.6 million to the public library, $1.34 million to the district attorney, $1.3 million to the sheriff’s office and $1.3 million to finance.

Other smaller allocations will be made to the auditor, city council, clerk and recorder, city attorney, Office of Children's Affairs, Denver Health, Office of Climate Action and the departments of human rights, arts and venues, public health, housing stability, community planning, economic development, excise and licenses, safety and human resources.

The $308 million is one of Denver’s many COVID-19 relief revenue streams. Others include the remainder of the $127 million from the CARES Act, $375 million left from the 2017 Elevate Denver bond and a proposed $400 million general obligation bond the council will vote on in the coming weeks.


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