At least $243 million of COVID funding bound for homelessness

Data Desk

DENVER (KDVR) — The City and County of Denver isn’t the only big administration dropping more money on homelessness this year.

Gov. Jared Polis proposed a record $40 billion in state spending on Nov. 1. The Polis proposal would increase the state’s budget by 3.9%. It would increase investments in public schools, air quality, housing, public safety and mental health. The governor proposes increasing the state’s operating budget by $1 billion, or about 8% over last year.

The new budget speaks to the level of attention Colorado’s homelessness issue has gotten. In previous budgets, homelessness was by no means a priority.

In the last three budget letters, Polis mentioned homelessness very little.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year proposal letter, he didn’t mention it at all. In the 2020-21 fiscal year budget, he mentioned it only once – and that only in connection with the federal eviction moratorium meant to keep unemployed tenants from landing on the streets during the pandemic’s restrictions.

As with COVID restrictions, Polis wants more local control than state. He acknowledges that local needs vary from place to place. Of the $200 million, half is reserved for a grant program where the state will match local programs dollar for dollar.

Polis proposes to draw this money from a reserve of Colorado’s American Rescue Plan Act funding.

This makes at least $243 million of COVID relief money bracketed for homelessness. In his most recent proposed budget, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock proposed $190 million towards housing and homelessness – $43 million of which would come from the federal COVID relief funding paid to the city.

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