Mayor Announces Newcomer Program Strategy that Avoids Budget Cuts

Published on April 10, 2024

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston today announced the first step in providing a long-term, sustainable response to the newcomer crisis that avoids significant cuts to public services.

The new plan, along with previous updates to shelter operations, cuts in half the projected annual cost for newcomer programs. At the same time, today’s announcement identifies a package of $45.9 million in funding needed to fully fund these programs for 2024, avoiding the worst-case budget cut scenarios.

“After more than a year of facing this crisis together, Denver finally has a sustainable plan for treating our newcomers with dignity while avoiding the worst cuts to city services,” said Denver Mayor Mike Johnston. “So many times we were told that we couldn’t be compassionate while still being fiscally responsible. Today is proof that our hardest challenges are still solvable, and that together we are the ones who will solve them.”

The new budget will reopen recreation centers and Denver Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices to original operating hours, after cost-saving measures in February had reduced some hours. It also will fund the city’s newcomer response without layoffs or furloughs of city employees. The budget includes new sources of funding from internal cost-saving measures such as reduced hiring for difficult-to-hire positions, fewer supplies purchases, and the deferral of some technology and capital projects. The total savings from these efforts will be $45.9 million. When combined with the previously identified $44 million already secured for the program, this new budget will fund the city’s newcomer response without additional budget cuts.

The new plan comes as the city has experienced 16 months of significantly increased migration. In that time, Denver has served more than 40,000 newcomers — the most per capita of any city in the country — at a cost of over $68 million. Approximately half of that cost, $35 million, was paid during just the last four months from December 2023 to March 2024, a period of record-high shelter occupancy.

To meet the budget for this program, the city’s Department of Finance worked for three months to identify opportunities for savings that prioritized options with little to no impact on city employees and the public services Denverites count on.

The New Denver Asylum Seekers Program

The new Denver Asylum Seekers Program will open its doors to the approximately 1,000 people currently in the city’s newcomer shelter system. All of these individuals are potential asylum seekers, meaning they have to wait at least 180 days after applying for asylum to receive work authorization.

Individuals in the program will be connected to housing assistance options for up to six months from the date of their asylum application. Participants will also be connected with an innovative pre-work authorization readiness program, called WorkReady. There they can collaborate with case managers to ensure they are moving on the right track and be connected with workforce training opportunities via partnership with non-profits, local businesses, educational institutions and training organizations. The program also includes access to language instruction, career pathway explorations, industry-recognized credential training and work-based learning opportunities.

“This new program is a win-win for everyone,” said Yoli Casas, Executive Director of ViVe Wellness. “New arrivals will have the help they need to get back on their feet, and non-profits will have the capacity they need to serve people well.”

The Denver Asylum Seekers Program is limited to people currently within the city’s hotel shelter system, as well as families receiving bridge housing through a partnership with Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of Denver. Individuals arriving in Denver after April 10 will be provided a short-term stay at a congregate site along with assistance securing onward travel to another destination. Newcomers who choose to remain in Denver may utilize available local and community support.

Watch Mayor Johnston’s full press conference here and view the entire slide presentation here(PDF, 585KB).

Tagged as: