Feb 9, 2024 - News

Denver will cut back hours at DMVs, rec centers to continue paying for migrant crisis

The silhouette of several men waiting in line at a food truck during a sunny day in Denver.

Venezuelan migrants wait in line for food at a migrant processing center. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver will cut back hours at DMVs and recreational centers to ensure it can continue providing services for migrants, Mayor Mike Johnston said Friday.

Why it matters: The mayor's decision is a turning point for the city's management of the migrant crisis — which has cost more than $42 million to date — and it shows his administration is prioritizing helping new arrivals.

Details: Vehicle registration renewals will be moved online only and at kiosks, with DMVs locations closing on a rotating basis starting on March 4, and reducing hours at city recreational centers starting on Feb. 20.

  • Spring and summer programing at rec centers are expected to be reduced, with spring programming reduced by at least 25%.

Zoom in: Parks and recreation executive director Jolon Clark tells us the decision to shorten hours and days for rec centers is proactive, and may change depending on whether the city is able to obtain more federal support.

  • Johnston said he expects the changes to continue for the rest of 2024.

Between the lines: The move will save the city roughly $5 million, Johnston said. It won't involve layoffs, though some on-call workers will see reduced hours.

  • At least nine DMV recruits won't be hired, and the city is pausing new applications for public events as well as special occasion and tournament permits.

The intrigue: Denver is still considering how it will change services provided to migrants, but anticipates reducing the number of people it can serve.

State of play: The decision is connected to a lack of funding and resources provided to the city by Washington, D.C. after a bill that would have provided federal funding failed.

  • Johnston strongly criticized Congress' inability to pass the measure, which he said would have expedited asylum cases and work authorization.

What they're saying: "This is a plan for shared sacrifice," Johnston said Friday. "This is what good people to in hard situations as you try to manage a way to serve all of your values."

  • He called on residents not to blame migrants for the changes.

By the numbers: Denver is currently sheltering more than 3,500, though arrivals have started to slow, with city data showing just one new person arriving on Friday.

The big picture: In late January, the mayor's administration proposed moving $10 million for a special revenue fund to pay for services, dipping into its savings to cover the costs.

What's next: The city says it will have new operating hours for the city's rec centers starting next week.

What we're watching: Johnston indicated more budget cuts may be forthcoming.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details and context.

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