Now you know: May 18, 2023

This week’s news in Boulder County and beyond


Boulder County receives funding for homeless solutions

Six organizations in the area are receiving $6.5 million dedicated to homeless services. 

“It’s a significant investment in homeless response,” says Heidi Grove, Homeless Solutions for Boulder County (HSBC) systems manager. 

The funding was made available through the state’s Transformational Homelessness Response Grant Program and House Bill 22-137, which allocated federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act. The goal of the grant program is to “create a future where homelessness is rare and brief when it occurs.” 

Boulder County recipients are Boulder County Community Services, Boulder County Housing & Human Services, Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, City of Boulder Housing & Human Services, Mental Health Partners and Mother House, which each received between $585,000 and $2 million in funding. 

HSBC works to coordinate with county-wide partners to create a cohesive plan and vision to address homelessness gaps in the area. 

Funds will be used to hire more staff, increase bridge-housing capacities, address family homelessness, create a 24/7 facility for people to recuperate from medical challenges and add support for unhoused adults experiencing mental health or substance abuse challenges. 

Focus Reentry and HOPE for Longmont, two more organizations part of HSBC, are waiting to hear about being awarded funding in the second round of the grant program. 

Public health emergency ends

After more than three years, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) officially ended in Boulder County on May 11, aligning with the federal expiration date. 

Boulder County Public Health (BCPH) will transition its focus to “priority settings and environments at high risk for transmission, such as congregate living facilities, jails and shelters.”

“Where we’re at in the next phase of recovery is really rebuilding and taking into account best practices we’ve learned,” says Chris Campbell, emergency manager with BCPH who helped lead the county’s pandemic responses. 

Campbell says the disease will continue to live among us, adding it’s important to take steps to reduce risks for people who are immunocompromised in the community by masking or getting tested. 

In the past week, there were 21 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in Boulder County and 9,455 nationally — the lowest since August 2020 when this data started to be recorded.  

“The end of the federal emergency declaration signals a positive shift in our COVID-19 response and reflects an overall reduction in severe health outcomes nationally,” Dr. Lexi Nolen, interim executive director at BCPH, said in a press release. “Boulder County has been in ‘low transmission’ for several weeks, which is heartening.”  

The county is still prepared for outbreaks as it continues to monitor wastewater systems, and can ramp up testing and vaccine distribution if needed, Campbell says.  

BCPH will continue to offer free COVID-19 vaccines until the state’s supplies are gone, which is expected to happen this fall. Future access and cost for services like COVID-19 testing or vaccinations may depend on private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. 

City finds no violation in complaint of councilmember 

An investigation report filed on May 12 found no indication that City Councilmember Nicole Speer violated the city’s code of conduct. 

The complaint, which was filed by Emily Reynolds on March 17, alleged that Speer testifying in support of House Bill 23-1202 was “outside the boundaries and scope of authority granted to individual Council Members as defined by the city charter and code” and she first needed approval from the Council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee (IGA). The bill would have allowed municipalities to authorize overdose prevention centers, but it was postponed indefinitely in late April.  

The investigation, which was led by Dan Vogel, found that because Speer obtained approval from Carl Castillo, the city’s chief policy advisor, the “entire process appears consistent with other instances when city personnel have testified on pending legislation.” Additionally, Vogel found no evidence city personnel need approval from the IGA Committee or the full Council before providing such testimony. 

Reynolds told Vogel she didn’t write the complaint, but sent it to the city with her name on it from an individual Reynolds declined to identify. 

State helps homeowners respond to wildfires

Gov. Jared Polis signed four bills in the last week to help Coloradans prepare for, prevent and respond to wildfires. 

Two bills, HB23-1174 and HB23-1288, address insurance challenges in the state by minimizing the risk of being underinsured after a natural disaster. Following the Marshall Fire, many survivors faced severe underinsurance — some up to $700,000 (News, “In Limbo,” December 29, 2022).

Democrat Judy Amabile, who sponsored both of these bills, did not respond to an interview requests by press time.

The other two bills help communities rebuild after disasters. HB23-1240 waives sales and use tax on construction materials for communities rebuilding from wildfire, and HB23-1254 ensures rental properties impacted by disaster return to safe conditions for tenants. 

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