Jun 27, 2023 - News

Denver considers $40M contract to help with migrant response

Nestor Castillo, 22, of Venezuela takes a moment to rest in the shade after arriving on a bus in downtown Denver last month. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver wants to spend up to $40 million to hire a private company to take over its migrant response services for the next year.

Driving the news: Denver Human Services, which oversees the city's response, is proposing a contract with Virginia-based GardaWorld Federal Services.

  • DHS executive director Jay Morein told council members last week the company was picked through a bidding process.

Why it matters: Contracting out the work could provide more secure sheltering options and better service for migrants, according to city officials.

Details: The contract would pay for services like sheltering up to 1,000 people, providing 24/7 staffing, reunification services, medical screenings and on-site food preparation.

  • A location for the shelter has not been determined, though GardaWorld Federal Services vice president Scott Elliott said three sites are under review.

Zoom in: The contract would run through March 2024, with an option to extend for two years afterward.

  • City deputy chief financial officer Stephanie Adams said last week that human services is requesting up to $40 million to allow flexibility for the contract.
  • Money from DHS' budget, the city's contingency fund, federal pandemic aid, and a special revenue fund will pay for the contract.

Context: DHS spokesperson Victoria Aguilar says the bidding process started in early 2023, when daily arrivals were high and the city was struggling to maintain services.

  • "We want to ensure we don’t reach that breaking point again," Aguilar tells us.

The intrigue: During a Denver City Council committee meeting last week, GardaWorld senior vice president of contracts David Watson said it did not provide migrant relocation services in Florida — refuting a report suggesting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, used the company to move migrants to states led by Democrats.

  • Watson said the company won't share information about migrants it helps with federal immigration authorities either.

The big picture: Despite being hundreds of miles from the U.S.- Mexico border, more than 12,000 migrants — primarily from Venezuela — have arrived in Denver since last December, due to positive word of mouth and because of its central location.

  • The city has spent $18.5 million from then through June 26, according to a city statement.
  • The effort requires city employees to shift from their primary work responsibilities to provide services, Morein told council members last week.

Of note: Denver is using contingency money — funds set aside for unexpected expenses — to cover costs, as well as money from the state ($3.5 million) and the federal government ($909,000).

  • The city is eligible for $8.6 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, though Aguilar tells us it hasn't received it yet.

What's next: The contract is scheduled for a final council vote on July 10.

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