AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A decline in marijuana sales is putting a strain on Aurora nonprofits.
Marijuana sales have dropped back to pre-pandemic levels, and that’s taking millions of dollars off the table for Aurora charities that serve the homeless population. That includes aid like temporary housing, cold weather shelters and meal programs.
Organizers told FOX31 the situation is partially because of a shortfall in retail marijuana sales, which are taxed by the city to fund a response to homelessness.
That funding was cut by more than half, and if more funding isn’t provided, nonprofits can start seeing services reduced almost immediately by Jan. 1.
“I was blessed and fortunate to get a room,” said Judith Benitez who fell on hard times.
She’s a resident at the Comitis Crisis Center on Victor Street. Since Aug. 7, she has been sleeping at the center.
“When you’re going through it, it’s like, how did I get here? What happened?” she said.
It’s the last place she would have thought to find herself, but she’s grateful she has a place to call home.
“It’s here all the time, for those who come in with a desperate need,” Benitez said.
Anna Miller is the director of business development and public relations at Mile High Behavioral Healthcare.
“Now to tell them they may not have a place to stay, how do you have that conversation?” Miller said.
She worries about a lack of funding. She said resources like shelter for residents may vanish
“We serve anywhere between 370-450 just at Comitis Crisis Center and Aurora Resource Center daily,” she said.
Marijuana sales tax, COVID relief funds decline
Marijuana sales taxes help fund the resources. That amount dropped from $3.9 million to $1.4 million at a time when federal COVID-19 relief funds are also drying up.
“It’s heartbreaking, right? These folks really depend on us for basic living needs, like shelter, food, resources, through case managers to find jobs or permanent housing,” Miller said. “It’s just heartbreaking with these cold months coming up to know services will be cut for folks who depend on us to survive.”
Organizers say if additional funding isn’t provided the agency’s seven-day shelter, hours can be reduced. The food program will be eliminated, and 18 of the agency’s 35 hourly workers could be laid off, hurting the hundreds of people who depend on their services.
“The fear for our staff — it’s their livelihood as well,” Miller said. “They have children and families.”
“Our guests here, this is their home,” Miller said. “This is their family, this is where they eat. It could all be taken in a blink of an eye.”
Council to decide on homeless funding
Aurora City Council met last month to discuss the request or funding for their homeless service partners. There is a new presentation scheduled for Monday, Nov. 20.
The anticipation of Monday night’s meeting outcome worries Benitez.
“That’s the scary part,” she said. “It’s a very real and scary part. If the resources aren’t there for me and anyone else, what do we do?”
Aurora City Council members will take a vote on whether more funding will be passed.
City leaders told FOX31 that while they are expecting a decrease in marijuana tax revenue, they also provide other sources of money depending on the agency. That can include American Rescue Plan Act funds or grants.