Clear Creek County, Colorado, is a small, rural county located in the Denver/Aurora/Lakewood metropolitan area. With a population of approximately 9,000, a majority of residents reside in unincorporated areas. The median age is 40, with a median household income of $51,000. Over 72% of the county is public land. Home to a number of ski resorts, tourism and recreation drive the county’s economy.
In a USA Today analysis of the counties most economically impacted by COVID-19, Clear Creek County ranked #13 in the country due to its commercial base’s reliance on seasonal tourism.
Putting CARES Act Funding to Work
Due to its small population, Clear Creek County did not receive direct CARES Act funding, but received an allocation from the state of Colorado. The county received an initial allocation of $831,000, and later received a second round of funding totaling approximately $800,000.
In order to support programmatic and reporting requirements, the county added nine staff, including a recovery coordinator. While other jurisdictions used a population-based approach to distributing funds, Clear Creek County employed a more strategic, consensus-driven approach. Individual jurisdictions within the county received small allocations, and the remainder of the funds were awarded to projects that submitted applications and were chosen by consensus, with a goal of providing direct support where it was needed most–to businesses and individuals in the community.
The county has implemented a number of programs to distribute CARES Act funds directly where it is most needed:
Business Support Program
Because small, owner-operated businesses pay better and contribute more to the community on a percentage of revenue basis, the county used approximately half a million dollars of its CARES Act funds to provide grants for reimbursement of costs to small businesses. Grants ranged in size from $5,000 to $20,000. The first round of funding received 73 applications, and grants were awarded to 49 businesses. The county recognized that, with the arrival of COVID-19, the business community missed out on the peak season of spring break. Ski resorts shut down, which impacted income to surrounding businesses and the residents they employ.
Since small, seasonal, tourism-dependent businesses, such as restaurants and independently owned shops form the backbone of the county’s economy, this line of support has been essential to providing small businesses with a lifeline to remain afloat. Despite funding already received, many remain in dire straits, and may not remain in business if further funding is not allocated. Furthermore, the county recognized that it was necessary to infuse its tax base with lifeline funding in order to ensure long-term economic viability.
Because many of the recipients are small business owners with limited technical capacity, the county partnered with the local library system to provide technical assistance to help the businesses comply with reporting requirements. Business owners can bring their documentation to the library, and library staff will work with them to compile the information into a format that complies with required documentation for funding eligibility.
Individual Support Program
The county also partnered with a local nonprofit, the Graham Foundation, to administer $50,000 in funding provided directly to individuals. This program funds such essential costs as rent, mortgage assistance, transportation costs for essential trips, pre-K and childcare, utilities not covered by other state programs (i.e., water, sewer, trash, gas, and possibly internet), as well as coverage for mental health services for those who do not have insurance, or for whom insurance does not cover the cost. To date, 33 individuals have applied and are in the process of receiving funding.