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Aurora City Council approves lower funding for homelessness organizations amid dropping marijuana sales

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 22:40:25-05

AURORA, Colo. — The Aurora City Council voted Monday to approve funding for several organizations addressing homelessness in the city, but at levels that are likely to be much lower than current amounts.

The city said the gap between requested and available funds is a result of ending COVID-19 funding, along with a large decline in marijuana sales tax, which has been a key part of the funding.

While several council members discussed future options to increase funding amounts with monies from the city's general fund and unused American Rescue Plan Act funds, it is unclear if or when that could be decided.

Diana Goldberg, executive director of Sungate Kids, said her organization has relied on the funding from Aurora in part to continue offering its services at no cost. Sungate Kids offers resources for children and families who experience violence and sexual abuse.

"More than 50 percent of our clients come from Aurora," Goldberg told Denver7. "Our funding from Aurora has gone from about 15 percent of our budget to one percent of our budget, even though our client base there has grown. And since the pandemic, our caseload has gotten much more complex."

Goldberg said a decrease in funding would be "devastating" to the organization and to the community members they serve.

"What it means for us is that eventually, we'll have to cut services," she said. "And that has such a ripple effect in the community."

The City of Aurora received 25 applications for funds from organizations working on the issues of homelessness and poverty, including Sungate Kids, according to city documents. The applications add up to nearly $5.3 million of requested funds. Yet, the city reports having less than $2 million available in the fund, due to the decline in marijuana sales tax and other COVID-19-related funds coming to an end.

There have been calls for city leaders to reappropriate money from other parts of the budget to shrink or close the gap.

Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky is among the council members who are opposed to this move. Jurinksy argued the organizations will need to ramp up their own fundraising effort to close the gap as city revenues decrease.

"Nothing should just be a guarantee when it comes to government funds," Jurinsky told Denver7. "These organizations, these nonprofits, they should be fundraising. They should be fundraising on their own, gathering their own donor base, and not just [be] dependent on the money from the city."

Goldberg, however, said cuts they could be forced to make to their services at Sungate Kids will ultimately cost the community even more in the long-run.

"It's going to affect the economic viability of the city. And, poverty is generational," Goldberg said. "My message [to city leaders] is: you need to invest in the future of the city of Aurora, and the services we provide are an investment in that future."

Aurora homelessness organizations see less city funding as marijuana sales dip

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