Mayor Michael Hancock said Wednesday his administration will ask voters in November to approve a $400 million bond package to help with pandemic recovery that would mostly fund infrastructure projects aimed at creating jobs.
City Chief Finance Officer Brendan Hanlon said the money isn’t earmarked for specific projects yet; the city will figure out where exactly the money will go over the next few months. The city has a list of roughly 210 projects that could benefit from the bond money, including things as small as street intersection fixes to big, multi-year projects. These come from feedback the city has previously received from the public. Those projects are outlined in the city’s Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan.
“We’re really not here to announce a series of projects, we’re here to announce the beginning of a process,” Hanlon said.
The city doesn’t have an exact estimate for how many jobs will be created by the borrowed money, though Hanlon said it will be in the thousands.
Denver lost about 25,000 jobs during the pandemic, according to city Economic Development Executive Director Eric Hiraga. Many of these losses were in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Hiraga said Denver’s job-loss numbers are consistent with those of other cities in the U.S.
Despite the pandemic’s impact on local businesses and jobs, Hancock said he believes the city’s economy is in a much better place financially than where he imagined it would be a year ago, when the city was still under a stay-at-home order.
“We are doing better than I would have anticipated because there were some pretty dark moments during the 2020 season of the pandemic,” Hancock said. “I think that has a lot to do with the resiliency of the people of Denver.”
The city has provided millions of dollars to local businesses in the form of relief grants since March 2020. The city’s getting money from the feds for recovery, too: It anticipates getting anywhere from $140 million to $311 million from the American Rescue Plan, a giant stimulus package signed by President Biden this year. Hanlon said Denver expects to get some of this money over the next few weeks, the first of two installments, with the second chunk of money coming in 2022.
Denver City Council will likely vote on whether to refer the bond package to voters over the summer.
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify the number of projects that could potentially be funded by the bond money.