Aspen, neighboring governments look to state for COVID-19 relief funding

An outdoor bar cart is open with health regulations in Aspen on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Aspen City Council on Monday signed off on an intergovernmental agreement with three other entities to seek reimbursement of COVID-related expenses from the federal government.

Council passed a resolution authorizing the IGA that allows the city to jointly apply for a grant with Pitkin County, town of Snowmass Village and town of Basalt.

“After talking with other city and town managers and the county manager we think it’s best to file one application on behalf of all of our jurisdictions rather than filing independently,” City Manager Sara Ott told council.

The request goes to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which is administering federal relief dollars on behalf of the state.

The proposed funding split is 55% to Pitkin County and 45% to municipalities divided on a per-capita basis, according to Ott.

That means just over $833,000 for Pitkin County, which would reimburse the local government for its expenses related to case investigation, contact tracing, consumer protection, epidemiology, emergency cash assistance, personal protective equipment, testing and staffing.

Aspen would receive $454,782 for reimbursable expenses such as emergency cash assistance, incident management team support and new staffing costs for COVID-19 response.

Snowmass Village would get $170,903 for emergency cash assistance, and unbudgeted expenditures supporting the county’s COVID-19 response.

Basalt is set up to receive $59,914 for emergency cash assistance, unbudgeted expenditures and supporting the county.

The money is coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress in March and established a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Colorado received $1.6 billion in CARES Act funding, and an executive order signed by Gov. Jared Polis directs that a portion of that be made available to local governments to cover costs associated with COVID-19.

The state requires counties and the municipalities within them to agree on how funds will be distributed among local jurisdictions, according to Ott.

Under the federal legislation, only local governments with a population of 500,000 or more were guaranteed a per capita share of CARES Act funding.

Because distribution of CARES Act funds to smaller communities is at the discretion of the states, Polis issued an executive order in May that made $275 million available for local governments with populations under 500,000.

Based on population, Pitkin County’s allocation for all local governments is $1.5 million, according to Ott.

DOLA has set the opt-in period for June 3 through July 7.

In a memo to council, Ott wrote that proposed expenditures which qualify for CARES act funding must be incurred as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27; and were incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30.

Ott noted that the city of Aspen has expended well in excess of the estimated $454,782 available for reimbursement under the proposed 55-45% per capita split.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Pitkin County will received $833,000.

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