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City and County of Denver Provides Updates on COVID-19 Response

Social Safety Net strategy and mobile testing launches; city revenue losses prompt employee furloughs

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock today announced projected impacts to the city’s budget as a result of the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with important updates as Denver nears one week since the lifting of the city’s stay at home order. Mayor Hancock discussed mandatory furlough days in 2020 for city employees, the expansion of testing, contact tracing activities, and a new Social Safety Net committee to ensure that Denver’s most vulnerable residents and neighborhoods are served equitably in the months ahead.

The city’s ongoing response to the pandemic, including the various Public Health Orders that continue to limit marketplace activity, is expected to significantly reduce local sales, lodgers’ and other tax revenues which support municipal operations. The city is currently anticipating a 2020 budget gap of $226 million. 

Budget-saving measures affecting nearly 13,000 city employees will include eight mandatory furlough days during the remainder of 2020 requiring each employee to take eight days off without pay will save an estimated $16 million. The city is scheduling furlough days, with services closed to the public on the following dates: July 6, September 4, October 19, November 27, and December 24. 

“We recognize the burden these furlough days have on both city employees and residents,” said Mayor Hancock. “I know our city employees are resilient and together, we will make it through these unprecedented times.”

Private and nonprofit partners are also helping address the city’s anticipated budget setbacks, including the contribution by Kaiser Permanente Colorado of $1 million to help provide necessary resources for the suppression of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness in Denver. The contribution is pending approval by City Council.

Ensuring that Denver’s most vulnerable residents and neighborhoods are served equitably during recovery and revitalization, city leaders have embarked on a three-phased Social Safety Net mobilization strategy: 

  • Priority Intervention: identifying emergency basic needs
  • Stabilization: ensuring that community needs and available resources are efficiently combined, through the remainder of the year
  • Recovery: an up to two-year process to restore Denver’s benefits and services climate to pre-pandemic operations. 

Part of ensuring equity through the recovery phase includes increased access to testing. Mobile testing for those in Denver who cannot easily access testing sites remains available via the “Wellness Winnie” and several more city fleet vehicles. A doctor’s note is not needed to be eligible for a test, which will consist of a nasal swab. Personal identification is also not required, but name and date of birth are requested for records purposes and in order to confirm an individual’s results. Residents can call 311 to schedule a testing visit. 

Along with testing, Denver is ramping up its contact tracing capacity. Nearly 100 members of the Denver Police Department and city employees will be trained and redeployed to Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) and to collect contact tracing data from people who have tested positive for COVID-19, helping establish potential risks to other community residents with whom the person has had recent contact. Contacting those residents and offering testing is a critical way to further reduce and contain the spread of infection, and to gather better data for communities that may have disproportionate impacts and exposure to COVID-19. 

While staff members will confirm the call recipient’s name and date of birth and will ask about symptoms, they will not request any form of payment or personal information related to income, social security numbers or family members. Residents are encouraged to answer their phones and respond to the questions asked. The contact tracing staff’s primary goal is to provide guidance on how residents, their families, and communities can stay safe. 

As the city continues to slowly enter the recovery phase, farmers markets will be allowed to open and provide food to their communities starting Saturday, May 16. Farmers markets in Denver must operate in a manner that prioritizes public health and safety, including implementing physical distancing, and enhanced hygiene practices.