Adams County, Colorado, is a large urban county located in the Denver/Aurora/Lakewood metropolitan area, with a population of nearly 500,000. The median age is 33, with a median household income of $67,500. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Adams County was the #1 county in the United States for job growth in 2019, in such key industries as aerospace, aviation, bio/life science, and manufacturing.
Putting CARES Act Funding to Work
Due to its population, Adams County has been a direct recipient of CARES Act funding, receiving $90 million. Within five days of receipt, 45% of the allocated funds were distributed to municipalities that were ineligible to receive their own direct funding. Of the $48 million the country retained, $22 million was allocated to the local school districts, $1 million to local fire districts, and $3 million to the public health department for contract tracing and investigation. The remainder of the funds were allocated to the county’s response and recovery needs.
In order to make programmatic decisions regarding COVID-19 response, including utilization of CARES Act funds, the county established seven response and recovery teams focusing on issues ranging from aging adults, business support, childcare, food security and basic essentials, housing stability, unemployment and workforce support, and uninsured and healthcare access. Each team has a chair, a county commissioner who serves as a champion, and is composed of subject matter experts from the community. The county has enlisted the help of Rocky Mountain Partnership to focus on community impact, as decisions about use of CARES Act and other county funding is distributed to meet the needs of the community.
Support to Individuals
Adams County was one of the first jurisdictions to establish an emergency rental and mortgage assistance program, unique in that it allows landlords to apply on behalf of their tenants. The county found that many tenants were not taking advantage of available resources because they were dealing with such barriers as unemployment and mental health issues. The county has spent nearly $2.1 million supporting this program to help more than 12,000 residents stay in their homes. The need for this program exceeds available resources, and there is a backlog of 600+ residents seeking further assistance.
To address social isolation and depression among senior citizens in the community during shelter in place, the county’s aging services response and recovery team created a “Well Elder” program. Each of the county’s 90,000+ senior citizens were contacted by phone to provide social connection and to organize such needed services as food delivery, prescription drug pickup and delivery, pet care, provision of cleaning supplies, and any other services to help them remain safely sheltered. Medical co-pay assistance was also provided to aging adults, enabling them to go to the doctor and retain their Medicare coverage.
The county has also created two funds to help preserve individual economic security: the Low Wage Worker Fund pays lost wages for those low-wage workers who test positive and must quarantine for 14 days; and the Left Behind Worker Fund, which provides $1,000 to those workers whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic and who do not qualify for state and federal unemployment assistance.
Food Security and Basic Essentials
The county partnered with local school districts to provide meals both to students and to their entire families. One of the county’s eight school districts served an average of 14,000 meals per day under this program.
To support local businesses, the county partnered with local chambers of commerce to fund mini grants aimed at helping businesses comply with state public health orders. CARES Act funds in the amount $3 million have been awarded to restaurants in the community to help them transition from the state’s orange alert level to red, which closes indoor dining. Restaurants are being awarded $10,000 each, which will primarily be used to purchase infrastructure for outdoor/patio dining, and to pay for delivery fees from such platforms as GrubHub, Doordash, and UberEats, which are prohibitively expensive for many businesses. The county was also instrumental in enacting a bill to cap delivery fees at 15%. These actions have enabled many restaurants to remain afloat during the cessation of indoor dining.
The county also provided $25,000 bridge loans to small businesses that were applying for SBA loans, carrying them through until the SBA funding was received. This program allowed for the retention and creation of 842 jobs.
Preserving Public Health
The county utilized part of its CARES Act funding to establish six mobile rapid testing sites for the uninsured and homeless populations, providing opportunities to get tested for those who otherwise would have been unable. To protect the homeless population, the county also rented a floor of a hotel, where those who tested positive were provided with food and shelter while quarantining.