Homeless shelters get biggest chunk of money in Denver’s COVID-19 relief spending

Denver is putting $25.6 million in federal money toward shelters, small business grants and other areas, city officials announced Thursday — the city’s second release of federal money to combat the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know the COVID pandemic is disproportionately impacting our historically marginalized communities of color, both physically and economically,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a news release. “These phase two funds must prevent further displacement and provide relief to our businesses, nonprofits, residents and workers.”

As the city struggles with an increased population of people experiencing homelessness, $11.9 million of the spending announced Wednesday will go to expanding and improving emergency shelters, according to the Denver Department of Finance.

No money is going toward eviction prevention this time, although city finance department spokesperson Julie Smith noted that $6.5 million went to rent, mortgage and utility assistance in Denver’s first, $20 million release of federal money. Protesters seeking to stop evictions in Denver blocked the entrance to the Webb Municipal Building for a time Thursday.

The new round of spending will include $4.5 million for two funds that provide small businesses with grants of up to $7,500. An additional $2 million will be used to give nonprofits grants of up to $15,000. Personal protective equipment kits for small businesses and nonprofits will account for $1 million of the spending.

The city also will put $1 million each toward emergency food distribution and a fund for workers who don’t qualify for state or federal aid.

Denver will use $300,000 to buy five new electric vehicles and charging stations in low-income communities and provide at least 450 residents with subsidized memberships for a nonprofit car share.

The city will spend $800,000 to put a public restroom near the 16th Street Mall.

With the new round of spending, Denver has now committed more than half of the $126.8 million it received in federal coronavirus relief money. The city also is using $25 million to help with internal costs, such as technology needed for employees working from home and salaries for employees doing pandemic-related work.

Part of the remaining $56 million will be used to match Federal Emergency Management Agency money that’s going toward items such as shelters and personal protective equipment, Smith said.

The rest is a contingency fund in case Denver sees another COVID-19 spike in the fall and Congress doesn’t approve more assistance for local governments, she said.

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