Aurora nets $30 million in CARES Act cash against growing budget deficit

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Rangeview High School 9th grade English teacher Sara Myers waves to a car full of graduating seniors, May 15, 2020, at Rangeview HS. Traditionally with this rite of passage, seniors would pass through a tunnel of the teachers through the halls of the high school. This year that wasn’t possible, so they improvised.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Aurora will net more than $30 million in federal money by way of Arapahoe County, the county announced, to buffer city coffers from big costs incurred while trying to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic this year.

Arapahoe County received about $114.5 million from the federal government through the original, $2.2 trillion stimulus bill dubbed the CARES Act.

Mayor Mike Coffman said the Aurora City Council will discuss at a study session how Aurora will spend the cash. He suggested it could offer pass-through money to entities apart from the city, as well as reimburse city employees spending their own money on personal protective equipment.

The federal dollars are much-needed for the city budget, which was hit early and hard after hotels and businesses across the city closed in March. Weeks later, the city furloughed almost 600  temporary and seasonal employees and expected a $25 million budget shortfall, the Sentinel reported. New city budget impacts were not available for this story. Denver has forced all employees to take 8 mandatory furlough days. Aurora says it will assess the budget impact before considering additional furloughs or layoffs.

In the May 22 press release, Arapahoe County said it would retain about $63 million to pay for a slew of measures now considered necessary for some local governments: modeling the spread of the pandemic to predict hospital surges and economic recovery, testing residents for the virus and hiring contact tracers employed to monitor and limit viral spread. The county also provides social welfare programs increasingly sought by cash-strapped residents.

“We recognize that the COVID-19 public health crisis has affected all our residents, businesses and communities in a variety of ways,” said Arapahoe County Board Chair Nancy Sharpe in a statement. “This crisis, and the recovery from it, are not uniform situations, so we are working closely with our municipalities to ensure relief dollars could be directed to local and regional needs, helping ensure our collective community can return as quickly and strongly as possible.”

Other municipalities will also get CARES Act cash from Arapahoe County. Centennial will pull in more than $10 million, Littleton will receive about $4.2 million and Englewood will receive more than $3.2 million. Smaller communities such as Bennett and Deer Trail  will each receive dozens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.