Apr 13, 2023 - News

Denver's costly migrant response changes course

Photo illustration collage of the Denver County Courthouse next to migrants at a makeshift shelter in Denver, CO.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Denver wants to change the way it pays for services for migrants who continue arriving here.

Driving the news: Denver's Chief Financial Officer Margaret Danuser tells us the city is spending roughly $800,000 a week in migrant services — an amount projected to cost the city up to $20 million for resources provided from December through June of this year.

  • Services include housing, meals, and bus or airline tickets to take people elsewhere.

Why it matters: The city will need to use money from its $32.5 million contingency fund to pay for the estimated spending.

The new strategy was unveiled recently during a briefing led by the city's human services department, which is primarily overseeing services.

  • Danuser said the contingency money differs from the city's rainy day fund, which primarily covers emergencies like revenue shortfalls.

The big picture: As of Tuesday, the city has served more than 6,300 migrants, city human services department spokesperson Victoria Aguilar told us.

  • The migrants, who are primarily from Venezuela, started arriving in large numbers in early December.
  • At least 762 people were getting city services as of Tuesday. The city monitors arrivals and departures daily.

What they're saying: "This is an issue that takes place thousands of miles from Denver, but has impacted the city greatly," Danuser told Denver City Council last week.

By the numbers: The city has spent $9.9 million on migrant sheltering efforts since December 2022.

  • Danuser told the city council last week that they have received $2.5 million in state grants, and have applied for an additional $1 million grant.
  • The city has applied for $2.8 million from FEMA's emergency shelter program.

Yes, but: Denver is looking for a service provider to manage migrant services, issuing a request for proposals in January to find an agency. Danuser said the city received proposals on March 20.

Zoom in: Executive Director Jay Morein told council members last week it's keeping the locations of four sheltering sites for migrants confidential for their safety.

  • Newly arrived people are allowed to stay up to 30 days and are not allowed to return to shelters after their stay.

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