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Colorado economic recovery chief stresses grant opportunities in budget committee presentation

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Colorado economic recovery chief stresses grant opportunities in budget committee presentation

Nov 28, 2022 | 5:21 pm ET
By Sara Wilson
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Colorado economic recovery chief stresses grant opportunities in budget committee presentation
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The Colorado Capitol on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)

Members of the state legislature’s Joint Budget Committee want to make sure the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial opportunity created by recent federal legislation is spread out fairly across the state, and pressed the man in charge of that money’s oversight during a Monday briefing.

“We want to make sure that this recovery really reaches every corner of the state. So what are we doing to try and make sure that those folks are able to apply and have the capability to apply (to various grants)?” state Sen. Jeff Bridges, a Democrat from Greenwood Village, said at the Capitol Monday.

“The last thing we want is for all this money to be coming just to folks in the Front Range that have full-time staff grant writers,” he added.

Pat Meyers, the state’s Chief Economic Recovery Officer, said that issue has been top of mind for his office and staff.

“Locals, particularly small and rural, are just out of capacity. They have had so much thrown at them, that the thought of having to staff a grant writing application, let alone implementation, is really difficult,” Meyers told the committee.

The issue at hand is how best to enable local governments to access billions of dollars of grant money from the state and federal legislation, such as the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021. Gov. Jared Polis’s budget proposal requests a total of $171 million in matching funds — $80 million from legislation from last session plus an additional $91 million — for the state and local governments to leverage federal funding. His administration’s matching priorities are transit, lead pipes and broadband.

Meyers said his office created regional grant navigation positions that will cover 14 regions, with hiring set to begin in January. Their goal will be to identify grant opportunities for local governments and provide technical assistance and capacity for those governments to apply.

Additionally, the recovery office hopes to host regional summits on the topic.

“The more touch points we have with locals, the more we can identify, ‘This is an opportunity, we think you should go after it, and here is how we can help,’” Meyers said. “We need to have our ear on the ground and know when something is not being communicated well or not flowing to the people who need to know about it.”

Meyers, who served as former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff, was appointed by Polis to lead the Office of Economic Development and International trade and serve as the state’s chief recovery officer in April 2021. He and his team have been responsible for monitoring and coordinating about $8.5 billion in one-time stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, and will also coordinate funding appropriated by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

Within that one-time stimulus money, Meyers said that about $2 billion went to public health, $1.67 billion went to economic recovery and $1.2 billion went to affordable housing.