Boulder expects to receive about $20 million in federal relief but plan for funding is unclear

Boulder tentatively expects to receive over a two-year period about $20.55 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion relief package approved last month by Congress.

However, although the city is aware of how much it may receive, it has not yet made plans for how those funds will be distributed.

“It’s way too early to say how we might leverage this,” Boulder’s Director of Communication and Engagement Sarah Huntley said.

While Boulder and other state and local government entities might hope for more direct resource provision, she said, the city has yet to receive any guidance on allowable uses. The first round of federal funding was earmarked for very specific pandemic-related needs.

“We also understand that before any funding can be received, the government is likely to require an ‘application of need,’” Huntley said. “To date, the city has not received information on when that document might be available and what it means in terms of any amount ultimately received.”

Boulder’s City Council has a financial update discussion planned for April 27. Huntley said the city anticipates the discussion will help Boulder understand the way its financial situation has been impacted by the pandemic. Further, she said the city likely will consider executive budget guidance and COVID-19 response steering committee input when prioritizing the funding.

Mayor Pro Tem Junie Joseph also requested in an email to Hotline that the Council Agenda Committee schedule a time for the City Council to further discuss the plan.

“It would be important for the entire Council and the community to learn how the city intends to spend or has spent the previous allocation,” Joseph wrote.

She suggested the city address several questions around accountability, transparency and equity. Questions about whether the city has completed a needs assessment, where the community can find information on how previous federal funding was spent and what portion would be set aside for addressing equity issues were among those posed by Joseph.

In a conversation with the Camera, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said the American Rescue Plan funding will be “a major shot in the arm” for local governments, businesses and residents in Boulder County.

“In Boulder … as in the country, we’ve really had two pandemics,” Bennet said. “We’ve had the pandemic for more affluent people who can work from home, and we’ve had a pandemic for people on the front lines who have had to go to work and many of whom are raising kids at the same time.”

He said the child tax credit, which offers parents $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children under 18, would help with that. Bennet has long been a proponent of the measure.

Ultimately, there’s a lot left to be decided in terms of when Boulder will receive federal funding and how that funding will be allocated, but the city hopes to know more in the next few weeks.

To learn more about the pandemic’s impacts and resources available in the community, visit bouldercolorado.gov/coronavirus.