The numbers are in, and Arapahoe County’s CARES program was pleased to be able to offer unprecedented financial relief and assistance to the County’s residents, businesses and communities during the last half of 2020.
After the entire country was left reeling last spring by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) in March 2020. Arapahoe County’s share of the financial package was about $114.5 million, and soon after receiving the funds, the County set up its own CARES program to distribute the relief to a wide variety of people and organizations.
Although it was not required, the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners decided to share about 45% of these funds with the County’s 13 municipalities, with amounts allocated by population size. (Bow Mar and Deer Trail declined to sign on to the intergovernmental agreement for this program.) This enabled participating communities to set up their own targeted relief programs and created a much more efficient delivery of the money to where it was most needed.
“We collectively decided early on that it made the most sense to share this pool of federal aid with our communities, even though the CARES Act didn’t require it,” said Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, the County’s Board chair in 2020. “By distributing the money equitably, we were able to help a wider range of residents and businesses when time was of the essence.”
The CARES Act stipulated that all relief funds be spent by Dec. 30, 2020 or be returned to the federal government, and it laid out specific requirements that the money could only be used for COVID-related expenses. By the time the County received the $114.5 million, Colorado, like most of the U.S., was deep into the extended shutdowns and resulting loss of income and revenue, which forced all County departments and stakeholders to act quickly and nimbly to determine where the relief should go. This meant establishing new assistance programs on the fly or expanding existing offerings, all while operating in an unfamiliar remote work environment—while still providing all normal County services to residents and businesses.
One of several silver linings during this process was the increased collaboration the relief efforts fostered between all levels of government and their stakeholders. “We’ve always worked well with our communities and partner agencies and organizations, but the pandemic made it necessary for us to take our communication and cooperation with each other to much higher levels,” said Commissioner Nancy Jackson, Arapahoe County’s 2021 Board chair.
These all-hands efforts resulted in comprehensive and crucial relief going to where it was needed most. And although the pandemic, and the fallout from it, is far from over, more federal financial aid is still to come in 2021. Having weathered the 2020 storm as well as possible, Arapahoe County officials and staff are even better prepared to help our residents, businesses and visitors do whatever is needed to finally put the pandemic behind us this year.