Denver City Council approves nearly $195M slash to overall operating budget for 2021

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DENVER (KDVR) — The City and County of Denver will go into the new year with a painfully tight budget. Mayor Hancock’s administration said COVID-19 led to cuts across the board.

The new overall operating budget was cut by $194.6 million to $2.1 billion for the year 2021. This represents a 9.27% decrease from the 2020 operating budget, according to the mayor’s budget proposal. Members of the city council approved the proposal in a vote of 12-1 during Monday’s virtual meeting. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca cast the single vote of opposition.

Sales and use tax revenue projections from the city show a drastic decline compared to revenue prior to the pandemic. Vacant government jobs and more furlough days next year will help bridge the gap. Agencies like police and fire will be forced to do more with less.

City leaders continue to give social services a boost during the pandemic. Hancock has agreed to council requests to continue the STAR program that prevents armed police officers from being dispatched to low-level 911 calls. Assistance will also continue for more Denverites to stay connected in the COVID-19 digital age.

“The [technology] demand tripled since COVID started,” said Alejandro Dopico, executive director of PCs for People – a company that refurbishes used computers for families in need.

Currently, 1,000 computers are being distributed per month in the Denver metro area, according to Dopico.

Rental assistance and eviction legal help will also remain a budget priority, according to the Hancock administration.

The Mile High United Way said it received roughly 3,000 calls last week at its Denver 211 center. The nonprofit reported more people needing housing assistance — a need that has doubled compared to pre-COVID-19 numbers.

“We’re still seeing a huge increase,” said Stephanie Sanchez, Mile High United Way’s 211 Colorado senior director.

Read the full budget here.

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