Denver’s $308 million in COVID aid money will be spent on economic recovery efforts through 2026

Even when the Colorado economy was thriving pre-pandemic, Metro Caring was welcoming 400 to 500 low-income families a week to its market-style food pantry in Denver’s City Park West neighborhood.

Then in a flash in the spring of 2020, COVID-19 arrived, the economy shed jobs faster than at any point since the Great Depression and the need for Metro Caring’s fresh produce and other staples skyrocketed. Suddenly the nonprofit was providing food to around 1,200 households a week, using a drive-thru model in its parking lot with its building shut down to protect clients and staff against the virus’ spread.

The organization was able to keep the nutritious food flowing thanks in part to $110,000 in grants from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. Those grants were funded through the CARES Act, the more than $2 trillion life raft Congress deployed in the early months of the pandemic.

More than $12 billion in federal support has poured into Denver through the CARES Act and other COVID relief programs, roughly 22% of all the federal money dedicated to Colorado during the crisis. That 22% is roughly equal to the city’s contribution to the state’s GDP. On a per capita basis, Denver’s share of that financial support —  $16,776, according to a Denver Post analysis — dwarfs what smaller, rural places like Yuma County ($8,681 in federal aid per person) received.

The Denver Emergency Food Relief Fund grants Metro Caring received are just a tiny sliver of that avalanche of money, but it was essential for the nonprofit and the people it serves.

“It kept us going,” Erik Hicks, the organization’s co-CEO said earlier this month. “It kept us stocked in food and supported staffing.”

The money also allowed the organization to add home delivery for the first time ever, Hicks said. That was critical for older adults, people with medical conditions that made them more vulnerable to the virus and families with children who were suddenly doing remote learning from their homes…

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