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Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announces budget cuts as part of new immigration program

"I think this really represents a new moment for Denver, which is the ability to take what is felt like a crisis and turn it into an opportunity," Johnston says
Mayor Mike Johnston April 10, 2024.jpg
Posted at 1:22 PM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-10 20:34:33-04

DENVER — Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced budget cuts for 2024 as part of a new immigration program the city is kicking off this week.

The city tried to avoid making cuts to services that would directly impact the public, according to the mayor during a Wednesday news conference.

While the city outlined $5.3 million worth of cuts to the Denver Police Department, that number represents the police budget to fill vacant positions.

"It is critically important that all of our recruit classes will still be going through. The police department protected those moving forward. So we were not going to change any part of that. We may be working on lateral hires for officers who could come in to be able to fill positions, as well through a lateral recruit class. So no change in officers that are deployed to the street, no changes in our plan on recruiting, and no changes in public facing services," Johnston said during Wednesday's news conference.

Instead, the mayor said the department would delay things like new furniture purchases and police department buildings.

The other agency that will see the second-largest slash in funding under this new plan is the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, losing $3 million — also in savings for vacancies.

Recreation center hours and programming will be restored in time for the summer when a lot of Denver parents rely on those services for childcare.

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Denver is cutting these services in 2024 to respond to the migrant crisis

Óscar Contreras
12:52 PM, Feb 09, 2024

Mayor Johnston faced backlash in February when he announced reduced hours at Denver recreation centers to respond to the migrant crisis.

Denver also opted not to plant flower beds on city properties as part of those cuts earlier this year. While the city missed the window to plant some of the original flowers in those beds, Mayor Johnston said volunteers are now working to plant others where they can.

"They're also looking at ways we use this as a chance to adapt to maybe new, more native species we'll have in some of these beds going forward," Johnston said.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announces budget cuts as part of new immigration program

Denver Motor Vehicle Offices will return to normal hours as well.

The reason that the city is able to restore some of these services is because it now expects to spend $89.9 million on immigrant services in 2024 — down from the $180 million city leaders first thought.

Mayor Johnston said Denver is seeing fewer immigrants arriving, and closing its shelters has cut costs.

The city had found $44 million of the $89.9 million in total necessary funding for 2024, but still needs $45.9 million to address the new immigrants who continue to arrive.



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Now, the city is beginning what it's calling the Denver Asylum Seeker Program. Mayor Johnston said the new program will:

  1. Help new immigrants apply for asylum.
  2. Connect new immigrants to apartments where they can live and support themselves.
  3. Connect them to food assistance.
  4. Connect them to a program the city is calling Work Ready Denver that will get new immigrants job training, industry certification and skills.

"No one is receiving wages at all during this workforce training. No one is compensated in any way. What we do know is they can get the training to be able to enter jobs in high demand industries," Johnston said of Work Ready Denver.
The Denver Department of Economic Development & Opportunity will oversee the new program as the participants wait the nearly six months to get work authorization.

"We will take all the folks that are in shelter tonight and be able to right away allow them access to that program. They will be the first in line to that program," Johnston said.

The Denver Asylum Seeker Program will have a limited number of spots available because it will require more staffing and expertise.

"It'll be somewhere around 1,000 [people] that will enter into the program as we launch it in the next few days," Johnston said during Wednesday's news conference.

For new immigrants who miss out on a spot or choose not to participate, short-term congregate shelters will be available.

The stay will be shorter at these overnight congregate shelters than they have been in the past few months — reducing availability from 14-42 days to approximately 24-72 hours. Denver will also continue to help new immigrants who want to travel to a different city.

"We're going to share this playbook with all cities around the country. We think we've now cracked the code on how to help people at each of these phases," Johnston told reporters.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announces budget cuts as part of new immigration program

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