Arapahoe County pandemic relief spending to go toward homeless, mental health

County officials decide how to use federal dollars

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Homelessness, housing, mental health and business support are among the main targets of dozens of millions in spending planned so far by Arapahoe County after receiving funds under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law in March 2021 with a goal to support the economic and public health recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the county said in a news release.

The county has begun distributing the one-time bucket of federal funds it received in 2021, the Feb. 11 news release announced.

“Arapahoe County will be the responsible steward for these funds by allocating them where they’re needed most across the community,” said Nancy Jackson, the chair of Arapahoe County’s elected leaders, the board of county commissioners.

“We’ve already begun creating or expanding numerous programs and initiatives to address issues that fall outside of our normal budgetary limits and were exacerbated by COVID-related factors,” Jackson continued.

Where dollars will go

The county will distribute its $127.5 million allotment over the next several years, according to the release.

The federal funding presents an opportunity to assist the county’s post-pandemic economic recovery in multiple areas and for a wide variety of community entities, including small businesses and nonprofits, as well as industries that were disproportionately affected by COVID, the release said.

The county commissioners held 14 outreach meetings to understand community needs and to solicit funding proposals, according to the release.

The initial funding plans focus on the people — particularly vulnerable populations — and economic sectors that were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, in categories that include (with total amounts allocated to date):

• Business Support: $12,806,500

• Homelessness and housing: $20,000,000

• Mental health: $8,572,060

• County operations: $8,116,000

• Education: $11,000,000

• Physical health: $1,590,000

• COVID response: $5,200,000

• Vulnerable populations: $5,725,000

For example, the county could provide $1 million to an initiative called “Ready to Work—West Side,” a potential effort to connect people experiencing homelessness with employment and housing, according to the county’s website.

Ready to Work is an established program with successful locations in Aurora and Boulder, according to the county.

The funding provided by Arapahoe County could be leveraged with local partners — the “Tri-Cities” coalition of Englewood, Sheridan and Littleton — to support the development of the program in the western part of the county, the website says.

Last year, leaders in Englewood, Littleton and Sheridan approved what they called a Tri-Cities Homeless Action Plan, designed to be carried out over the next three years.

Among the recommendations in the plan is to create “a central navigation center” — a dedicated space to help people experiencing homelessness learn about services and apply for programs, such as available housing services, the plan says.

As another example of Arapahoe’s spending plans, the county could provide $300,000 to the planned Tri-Cities Navigation Center, according to the county’s website.

Again, the potential funding provided by the county would be leveraged with the “Tri-Cities” group to support the development of the program, and the county could also provide additional staffing support for the center, using existing resources and staff members, according to the website.

For more information about specific projects and the funding approval process, the public can visit arapahoegov.com/ARPA. Click on one of the links in the list for more details.

Other ins and outs of funding

The initial rollout of the county’s plans for the federal funds will help jumpstart some community partners’ projects and programs, the release said.

“In many cases, the funds the board has tentatively allocated to these initiatives will cover only some of their costs, so these partners can now leverage our commitment to help raise whatever additional funds they need,” the county said in the release.

Over the last few months, the board has held “study session” meetings to review funding recommendations and make allocations, some of which are tentative subject to additional details and finalized federal regulations, according to the release.

“The funds will help stabilize what has been a very uncertain situation over the past 20 months by helping us launch, continue and expand numerous initiatives across a variety of sectors,” the county said in the release.

The federal legislation outlined that these one-time funds should be incurred before Dec. 31, 2024, and expended or completed by Dec. 31, 2026. Individual communities within the county have also received their own federal allotments, according to the release.

Arapahoe County, American Rescue Plan Act, pandemic relief, homeless, mental health, Ellis Arnold

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