Leadership Sets Bipartisan Process for $850M Housing and Behavioral Health ARPA Funds

DENVER, CO — House and Senate legislative leadership today approved two resolutions to establish the processes that will produce recommendations on transformational changes Colorado can undertake to make housing more affordable and attainable and improve access to behavioral health care. 

“Colorado is creating a responsible, bipartisan process to allocate nearly $1 billion in federal funds for transformational changes that will make housing more affordable and improve our behavioral health system,” said Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “We have this opportunity because our federal delegation and President Biden delivered critical relief for Colorado. I’m excited to formally kick off the process that will shape how Colorado uses American Rescue Plan Act dollars to recover from the pandemic and build back stronger.”

“For Colorado to build back stronger than before the pandemic, we need an equitable recovery where everyone has an opportunity to succeed,” said Majority Leader Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “Creating more affordable places to live and improving access to behavioral health care will expand opportunity, improve the health of Coloradans and boost our economy. The process we created today will bring together lawmakers, experts and community leaders with a wealth of knowledge on these issues to chart a path forward for our state.”

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers worked collaboratively with Governor Polis to develop and advance the Colorado Comeback Roadmap to Building Back Stronger, which envisions investing nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to make housing more affordable and fix Colorado’s behavioral health system. HB21-1329, signed into law on June 25, sets aside $400 million of ARPA funds for future housing efforts, and SB21-137, signed into law today, sets aside $450 million of ARPA funds for future behavioral health investments. Under the bills, two task forces will make recommendations on policies that make housing more affordable, expand opportunities to build wealth through homeownership, address homelessness and increase access to behavioral health and substance use disorder services. 

Under the resolutions approved by the Executive Committee today, the behavioral health and housing task forces will be comprised of legislators and members of departments, with each task force supported by its own sub-advisory panel of stakeholders and experts. The sub-advisory panels and task forces will meet until the beginning of next year to develop and approve recommendations on transformational change in each of their respective issue areas. 

Legislative leaders will make appointments to the task forces by July 16 and to the sub-advisory panels by July 23. Each appointment to the sub advisory panels must meet specific qualifications. For example, the speaker’s appointments to the housing sub-advisory panel must include an individual with expertise in homelessness, an individual with expertise in non-profit housing development, and representatives from local governments. The Executive Committee also approved an RFI to select a facilitation firm to help manage, coordinate and support the work of both the task forces and the subpanels. 

The task forces will convene by early August for organizational meetings. The subpanels will then meet to analyze and discuss policies for consideration by the task forces. The task forces will start convening regularly during the late fall to discuss policies and ultimately to approve recommendations to be included in a final report to be sent to the legislature and Governor. The timelines for taskforce and sub-advisory panel meetings are flexible and intended to serve as a guideline.

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