Aspen electeds finalize historic multi-million dollar COVID-19 relief package |

Aspen electeds finalize historic multi-million dollar COVID-19 relief package

Richard Zuckerwar takes a photos of the closure sign outside of Belly Up Aspen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

City of Aspen food tax refund deadline is Wednesday, April 15

City residents who’ve resided in Aspen for at least all of 2019 and are eligible to vote and can prove residency, can receive a $55 food tax refund.

The deadline to apply online is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15 at 5 p.m.

Accepted proof of address documents include a January or December utility bill, a lease or rental contract, or a bank statement.

The application is available on the city’s website.

Call (970) 920-5000 for more information.

The $6 million COVID-19 economic relief and stimulus package for local businesses, residents and workers that Aspen City Council passed Tuesday will be distributed at the discretion of City Manager Sara Ott in the coming weeks.

How that money is doled out and to whom is still being worked out, and a team of department heads within the municipal government are working on various plans for different sectors of the community.

“Council’s role will be to establish criteria. … I strongly encourage you to not make the decisions on the actual awards … that you establish expectations,” Ott told council.

Ott, who has been meeting with stakeholders throughout the valley and beyond, will ultimately sign off on any relief plans, with consultation from City Attorney Jim True and Finance Director Pete Strecker.

“(We are working) with them to find out the most expeditious way to release funds through some kind of means testing from here to Parachute to ensure we are getting the money to the people who truly need it and there’s a bit of a vetting process,” she said late Tuesday night.

Mitch Osur, the city’s director of parking and downtown services, said Tuesday prior to council’s meeting that he is working on a $1 million relief plan for local businesses.

“It’s almost ready,” he said, adding he’s gathering feedback from council members and will present to Ott and her team soon.

Council approved a resolution Tuesday that authorizes a $3.5 million inter-fund advance from the Wheeler Opera House Fund to the general fund for the purposes of financing relief and economic stimulus efforts.

During a special meeting April 9, council approved on first reading an emergency ordinance that appropriates money from the city’s housing development fund, the Kids First child care fund and the general fund.

Council also passed last week a resolution that approves a multi-pronged objectives and outcomes document that centers around increasing the economic security for vulnerable people by securing shelter, food, utilities, health care, child care and transportation, as well as working proactively to minimize further economic disruption and actively encourage recovery.

The council on Tuesday finalized the ordinance and resolution on second reading with a unanimous vote.

The money will cover everything from rent and mortgage relief for local workers and residents to child care subsidies for working families to possible bridge loans or grants to Aspen businesses, along with costs associated with disease testing and personal protective equipment for health care workers.

The city’s relief fund will be funded with $1.5 million from the housing development fund, and $1 million from the Kids First child care fund; both have reserves to cover the expenditures, according to city officials.

Because the general fund doesn’t have sufficient fund balances, council is planning to borrow from the Wheeler Opera House fund, which has roughly $33 million in it and is funded by real estate transfer taxes.

The money will be paid back in installments over 10 years at an interest rate that will be set equal to the 10-year Treasury rate at the time of the initial advance.

Council on March 30 voted to appropriate an additional $200,000 toward Pitkin County’s relief fund, which has seen more than 1,200 applicants and is drawing from a $1.3 million account with most of the dollars coming from the county, along with a $100,000 contribution from Snowmass Village.

Another $300,000 will be put into that fund, as appropriated in the emergency ordinance passed by council Tuesday.

The city declared a local disaster emergency March 12, which was two days prior to Gov. Jared Polis shutting down all ski areas in Colorado and weeks before local public health orders closing dine-in restaurants and bars, as well as non-essential business were put into place.

Ott declared that emergency partly because it would put the city in the front of the line if and when federal and state aid comes to municipalities.

There’s no guarantee, however, that Aspen will get any federal stimulus money.

City officials are lobbying their state and congressional representatives to not let rural mountain communities be forgotten.

“This continues to be a real concern of mine,” Ott told council, adding that the recovery of entire state of Colorado’s economy is on the line.

The city anticipates a reduction of $277 million in the sales and lodging tax base this year, translating into a revenue shortfall of nearly $13 million in revenue.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.