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Denver to jumpstart ‘Left Behind Workers Fund’ to help residents who do not qualify for state, federal aid

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Councilmember Robin Kniech are preparing a proposed city investment of $750,000 into a relief fund that will aid Denver residents who have lost their jobs but do not qualify for federal and state assistance amid the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The people and families who will be helped by this fund work in our city’s restaurants, hotels, venues and the many industries that fueled our thriving economy and made our city the city that it is. They deserve support during this uncertain time as well,” Mayor Hancock said.  “Unlike the federal government, we will not leave some of our friends, families and neighbors behind. We will support all members of our community.”

“As our nation is appropriately focused on the history of racism and its impacts on black lives, this investment will help Denver mitigate the harm experienced by another community that has faced bias and exclusion,” Councilwoman Kniech said. 

Pending City Council approval on Monday, the $750,000 from Denver’s General Fund would go to the Left Behind Workers Fund hosted by Impact Charitable, a Denver-based nonprofit that manages charitable donations in impact investment portfolios on behalf of numerous donors.  Denver’s commitment leverages an additional $980,000 in philanthropic commitments – $400,000 from Open Society Foundations and $580,000 from an anonymous donor.  Combined, the contributions would provide $1.73 million in emergency relief to Denver families directly impacted by a loss of income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Estimates based on statewide data indicate that more than 17,000 immigrants, some of whom are undocumented, have been left out of other relief efforts were working and paying taxes in Denver prior to the crisis, supporting families and contributing to our communities. These workers are overrepresented in service-based industries that have been hit hard by the crisis.  They work at restaurants, in hospitality, in concessions, and on janitorial staffs in buildings that have been closed.

“Like many of my coworkers at the airport, I was abruptly laid off this past month. It’s been extremely difficult having to balance paying my bills, taking care of my family, and losing my healthcare during these scary times,” Birhan Maru a former food service worker at DEN for Sodexo and SEIU Local 105 member said. “I’m going to continue doing everything I can to get back on my feet, and I’m proud of my city for stepping up and providing assistance to families in need.”

To be eligible for the aid, an individual must demonstrate a loss of income related to the COVID-19 pandemic through layoffs, furloughs, a reduction in hours of 20 hours or more per week, or an unpaid leave of absence from work due to school or daycare closures, the need to care for family members, or the need to remain quarantined after possible COVID-19 exposure. The household must also be ineligible to receive both unemployment benefits and CARES Act funding.

The Left Behind Workers Fund will disperse payments of $1,000 per eligible, displaced worker to help them address their most pressing emergency needs such as food, rent, bills, healthcare and transportation. Once Denver’s investment is disbursed, trusted nonprofit community partners engaged by the Fund will identify eligible applicants, including reaching into communities that are particularly vulnerable to displacement. The nonprofits will screen and approve eligible applicants for payments.

“Immigrant workers play an important role in our economy; not only because we rely on so much of the work that they do, but also because they pay millions in taxes,” fund advisors Mark Newhouse and Katrina Van Gasse said.  “Yet many of them during this difficult time are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits from a system that they and their employers have paid into.”

The Left Behind Workers Fund was launched with donations from more than 194 individuals and entities including the Denver Foundation and the Rose Foundation, in partnership with Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Impact Charitable, Social Venture Partners, and the Village Exchange Center.

Denver City Council will consider a contract for Denver’s contribution to the Fund at the regular City Council meeting on Monday.

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