Gov. Jared Polis, left, was joined by Treasurer Dave Young at a news conference March 22, 2021, announcing the statewide Build Back Stronger listening tour. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
Besides $1,400 stimulus payments for many Americans, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and aid for school districts. It also features an extra $4.1 billion for lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to allocate through the state budget.
Gov. Jared Polis, Treasurer Dave Young and state lawmakers say they want Coloradans to help them decide how to spend the money. They plan to gather feedback through a “Build Back Stronger” statewide listening tour, announced at a news conference March 22.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, and with that opportunity comes the responsibility of getting it right,” Polis said.
The first stop is set for March 28 in Pueblo, with a focus on the Southern Colorado region. A schedule had not been released by the afternoon of March 22.
“We’re really looking forward to hearing great ideas from the left, the right and the middle,” Polis said.
States are still waiting for federal guidance, but they appear to have considerable flexibility in determining how to spend the American Rescue Plan money. Of Colorado’s allocation, $171 million is reserved for capital expenditures — projects that could involve building or maintaining roads and bridges, improving broadband in rural areas, or purchasing new technology, for example.
On their listening tour, state leaders plan to hold both virtual and in-person conversations with people from various geographic regions, economic sectors, and racial and ethnic communities.
“Our rural communities and agricultural industries have had to face more than their fair share of the challenges,” noted Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat. “The Colorado way of life depends on rural constituents and ensuring that these industries are thriving.”
It’s unclear when or how much the feedback could play into future legislation or policy decisions. The responses from Coloradans gathered from stops on the listening tour will be collected into a publicly accessible report, the governor said.
County governments received their own allocations from the American Rescue Plan. In Colorado, they will receive $1.1 billion allocated proportionally based on population size.
Denver County and El Paso County are in line to receive about $140 million, based on preliminary estimates released by Congress, while half of Colorado’s 64 counties are expected to receive less than $3 million.
The federal stimulus money made available through the American Rescue Plan is separate from a state-funded $700 million economic stimulus plan, which Colorado lawmakers announced earlier this month along with the governor.
Using surplus revenue from state income and sales taxes, state leaders plan to fund shovel-ready infrastructure projects, workforce and economic development, rural broadband investments, and relief for small businesses.
Chase Woodruff contributed to this report.
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