Boulder County commissioners this week approved an initial list of 10 projects to address inequalities exposed by the pandemic with aid funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Projects include providing direct cash assistance to families with young children, creating a new mental health services navigation center and supporting affordable housing projects.
The projects, totaling $36.5 million, were recommended by three task forces tasked with developing ideas to spend the just over $63 million in American Rescue Plan Act assistance allocated to the county became.
The three thematic areas of the projects are economic challenges, affordability of housing and mental health and social resilience. Those areas were identified through community feedback, with a focus on prioritizing the needs of those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, county staff said.
“With this money, we’re going to help people in their daily lives, and I’m really excited about that,” Commissioner Matt Jones said. “Most people have been hurt by the pandemic in one way or another, but there are people of lesser means who have really been hit, if you will.”
The working groups, which included community members, nonprofit and business leaders, advocates, policy experts, and county employees and leaders, met from February through May to develop proposals. Their proposals were presented to the commissioners at a public hearing on May 3rd.
Two of the approved projects address economic challenges. One provides up to $7.5 million in grants to nonprofits in the area, while the other provides $6 million in direct cash assistance to families with young children.
The county has not yet established income thresholds for the direct cash assistance project, but the plan is to provide up to $300 per month for each 0- to 3-year-old child for low-income families. Families would not be restricted on how they could spend the money, allowing them to pay for childcare, food, basic needs, or support staying at home to look after their children.
Two other projects deal with housing affordability. The district is providing $7 million to advance affordable housing projects already in the pipeline, while $5 million would go towards establishing a fund to help residents buy RV parks from their outside owners.
In addition to helping residents buy parks, the money could be used for major infrastructure improvements for parks owned by residents or parks whose landlords have a commitment to long-term affordability. Park residents could also apply for money for home repair projects.
Six projects were approved in the Mental Health and Social Resilience category. This includes $3 million for mobile community response teams to help people in crises without involving law enforcement, and $3 million for creating an online community hub to connect people with mental health resources .
The remaining four projects support fairer access to mental health services.
These projects provide $3 million in community-based grants, $1 million in mental health vouchers for individuals, $500,000 in school-based services, and $500,000 in community mental health training.
Timelines vary by project based on complexity and planning required, with a goal of completing projects by the end of the year, said Boulder County policy analyst Leslie Irwin. Some will also require the county to add more employees, she said.
“That’s a lot of new projects that need to get up,” she said. “We’re all preparing for that.”
In addition to the 10 projects approved this week, the county is considering several other recommended projects. The commissioners also previously approved the October issuance of an initial $5.5 million to meet immediate needs and administer the grant.
Projects still under review include a regional housing partnership, grants to support small businesses and seed capital to support the development of an “early childhood community village” in southeast Longmont.