The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to many Jefferson County residents and businesses. As individuals, the state’s “Stay at Home” and now “Safer at Home” orders have been challenging as many of us try to balance our personal and work lives, but those orders dealt an incredible blow to most of our small businesses. They need our support now more than ever.
As county commissioners representing Jefferson County, the three of us have made a commitment to shop locally whenever possible. We’ve eaten more restaurant take-out food in the past three months than in the previous year, and we are making a point to tip more generously than we ever have. We hope you do the same.
We are fortunate that there is another way that we are able to help our Jefferson County community. The federal government has made more than $2 trillion available to state and local governments, small businesses, healthcare providers and individuals through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Jefferson County’s portion of those funds total $101.7 million, and we are working hard to put that money back into the community as quickly as possible.
For example, Jefferson County elected offices, departments and divisions will use approximately half of those funds for items such as personal protective equipment, COVID-19 tests, ongoing cleaning services to keep the public and staff safe, and other needs directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are distributing nearly $30 million to cities located in Jefferson County to help them address the effects of the pandemic. Those distributions will be made based on city populations to ensure fairness.
Small businesses and local nonprofits need our help too. We have set aside $7.5 million to support small businesses in unincorporated Jeffco and nonprofits throughout the county that have been hurt by the pandemic. Businesses and nonprofits can apply for grants from this program through June 9, and more information on this program and the application can be found on our CARES Act Emergency Grant Funding web page.
We’ve also earmarked nearly $1 million for food programs including Jeffco Public Schools’ summer meals program and a bulk food purchase program. And nearly $500,000 is going to local health care providers and hospitals to support them, and $150,000 will go to the Jefferson County Workforce Center to increase temporary employees to better help job seekers find employment and secure unemployment insurance benefits. Additionally, $250,000 will support an initiative to combat homelessness through a partnership that includes Jeffco, local cities and nonprofits such as the Salvation Army.
While these numbers might change slightly as we go through the process, we want to be sure that the distribution of the CARES Act dollars ensures our cities and our county have funding to help businesses re-open and to support services that help our neighbors facing economic hardship due to the pandemic. The Board of County Commissioners, in coordination with Jefferson County Public Health and the community stakeholders within the Business and Economic Taskforce submitted a request for a variance to safely and responsibly reopen our businesses by implementing guidelines that best meet our county’s needs.
These last couple of months have been a very difficult time for us all, but we’re a strong community that looks out for one another, especially our most vulnerable. This pandemic is no exception, as we focus on preventing the spread and economic recovery. You have helped make this possible. Our heartfelt thanks to our community for your sacrifice and hard work to help flatten the curve in Jeffco.
Commissioners Libby Szabo, Casey Tighe and Lesley Dahlkemper