Consensus was given to direct staff to move forward with a plan allocating $7.9 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) spending during an April 4 Wheat Ridge City Council meeting. Council also approved moving forward on a plan to allocate $8.8 million towards construction work being done on Wadsworth Boulevard and $1 million for a sidewalk on Wadsworth stretching from 32nd to 35th Avenues.
At the beginning of the meeting, Wheat Ridge City Manager Patrick Goff said the city is in the unusual situation of preparing to receive millions in non-recurring revenues over the next couple of years. The one-time funds are coming from a mix of COVID-related federal aid and the reimbursement of funds loaned out to complete an infrastructure project.
“The city is receiving historic and transformative funding from the federal government to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Goff said. “We’ve already received $2.5 million in CARES Act funding in 2020 to respond to immediate financial impacts of the pandemic and have received half of the $7.9 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding (the city is being awarded) in 2021.”
Wheat Ridge will receive the second half of the ARPA money this June, which Goff said will address more strategic and long-term needs of the community.
Additionally, Goff said the city is seeing unprecedented levels of commercial and residential development, increasing revenues to the city. He said Wheat Ridge is projected to receive approximately $8 million in revenue from the SCL Lutheran Hospital Project alone.
If that weren’t enough good news, this past December, the city was reimbursed $9.8 million they’d loaned to the Longs Peak Metropolitan District to complete a hook ramp project on I-70 near Clear Creek Crossing.
The reimbursement funds are unrestricted and can be spent at the discretion of City Council.
According to Alli Scheck, Director of Administrative Services, $850,000 of the CARES Act money went to support small businesses through three rounds of grant funding. About $750,000 went towards personnel to cover Public Safety payroll. Another $450,000 went for PPE (personal protective equipment), with additional money going to improving HVAC systems, installing plexiglass partitions and other COVID related protections in City buildings.
ARPA funds will go toward further response to the pandemic with money being spent on responding to Public Health and Negative Economic Impacts of Covid-19, maintaining vital services and investing in long-term growth to “build a strong, resilient and equitable recovery,” Scheck said.
This includes funding Covid-19 mitigation and prevention, behavioral healthcare and preventing and responding to increases in crime and violence.
The City has retained the services of an auditing firm to help them understand guidelines around exactly how the funds can be spent. But Scheck said the federal government is allowing cities like Wheat Ridge to use up to $10 million in ARPA funds as a “lost revenue” allowance — a category that’s relatively flexible, allowing funds to be spent on almost any government service. Funds could also be used for water and sewer infrastructure spending.
“Responding to Negative Economic Impacts” will include funding things like assistance to households to deal with homelessness, affordable housing and food insecurity. It also includes assistance to nonprofits who’ve seen declining revenues or increased demand for services due to the pandemic.
Goff said City staff’s recommendation is to put about 30% of the money toward Homelessness and Housing, 8% toward COVID mitigation and prevention, 21% to Public Safety and Floodplain, 24% toward Park and Trail Improvements, 9% to Preventing and Responding to Violence, 6% to Behavioral Healthcare and the remaining 2% toward Food Insecurity and Assistance. It’s worth noting that some of the money (from funds received in June, 2021) already has been spent.
Drilling down deeper into housing issues, Goff said staff envisions around $1 million of the money going toward the Homeless Navigation program. That amount would not only fund the current program through 2026, but would also fund an additional Housing Navigator position, which has become increasingly necessary as homelessness case numbers rise.
Additional housing funding will go toward a Regional Homelessness Navigation Center and include support for wrap-around services like mental health and workforce training for people experiencing homelessness.
“The Navigation Center would also include 150 supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness,” Goff said. “It would also include50 short-term (emergency) beds.”
Goff said rough estimates are that Wheat Ridge’s portion for the first Regional Homelessness Navigation Center (proposed to be located in Arvada) would be around $400,000 for construction and operating expenses of around $100,000 per year.