Briefline

American Rescue Plan task forces seek public input on how to spend $850 million

By: - August 20, 2021 5:00 pm

The Colorado Capitol in Denver is pictured on June 12, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

Big decisions lie ahead for two Colorado task forces, comprising state lawmakers and government officials, that convened for the first time this week.

Over the next several months, task force members will determine how to spend $850 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act. And they’re asking for the public to weigh in.

Members of the public can submit comments related to funding for affordable housing by visiting the webpage for the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force. Click on the button marked “Submit Comments to Task Force or Subpanel.”

The webpage for the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force also contains links to submit comments and ideas to the task force and subpanel.

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The behavioral health task force has $450 million to direct, while the affordable housing task force has $400 million. The money must be obligated by December 2024 and spent by December 2026.

“We need to be cognizant that since these are one-time dollars, that we don’t do things that have long-term financial implications for the state,” Rep. Dominique Jackson, an Aurora Democrat who chairs the affordable housing task force, said during the panel’s first meeting Thursday. “And the proposal should do not just more of what we’re doing.”

Dominique Jackson
Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, represents Colorado House District 42. (Courtesy of Colorado House Democrats)

The task forces won’t be able to introduce or pass any bills, but will each produce a report with recommendations on how to spend the money, which could include proposed legislation for the Colorado General Assembly to pass during next year’s legislative session. Those reports are due to the General Assembly and governor’s office before the session begins in January.

Task force members have a variety of goals and perspectives on the funding, which is loosely tied to pandemic recovery efforts but leaves significant room for decision making.

“I have a great interest in how we can prevent (juvenile justice) system involvement for young people, which oftentimes leads them down a path into adult criminal justice involvement,” Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, a Denver Democrat and the vice chair of the behavioral health task force, said during that panel’s first meeting Tuesday. “That’s what I would like to really focus on during this task force.”

Each task force has a subpanel of experts from the public and private spheres, who will advise legislators and officials on areas where funding is needed.

The task forces’ respective webpages will contain links to schedules, meeting materials and live audio. Audio recordings are also available on the General Assembly’s website. As of Aug. 20, neither task force had posted the date for its second meeting.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Reporter Faith Miller covers the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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