By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Mayor Michael Hancock announced Wednesday he wants voters to approve a $400 million bond package in November to help fund his pandemic recovery plan in addition to any federal funding the city receives this year. The plan outlined will attempt to address three major issues including the economy, the housing crisis, and public safety.

“We need to seize this opportunity to kickstart our economy and sustain it,” Hancock said at a virtual news conference.

(credit: CBS)

City leaders joined the mayor discussing the plan to get Denver back toward the economic success it saw before the pandemic. Details on how to help unhoused and unsheltered residents as well as reduce crime will be released in the weeks ahead. The American Rescue Plan, which was a historic stimulus package approved by Congress, could send anywhere from $140 million to $311 million to Denver. But city leaders do not expect to learn more about that funding until at least May 11.

“We know all to well this pandemic has hit certain industries and their workers the hardest,” Hancock said.

The amount of $400 million was decided based on what city staff estimate will be necessary to tackle projects already on their radar to improve the city’s economy and address issues of inequity that were present before the pandemic. Denver’s Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan outlines nearly $4 billion in potential projects. Hancock says his team decided asking for 10 percent, or $400 million, was a good start while they wait for federal funding. The city has already received more than 5,000 ideas from the public and communities will ultimately vote on what projects should be completed.

“So we can recover and come back stronger than before and help our local businesses regain the ground they lost in COVID-19,” the mayor said.

One major goal of the recovery plan is adding 40,000 total jobs. City staff say 25,000 jobs have still been lost to COVID-19 even as many people have been hired in the past year and the unemployment rate has improved from more than 13% to a little more than 7%. But to get Denver back to its pre-pandemic employment rate by the end of 2022, the city says it will need to add another 15,000 jobs to keep up with population growth.

(credit: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Image

The vacancy rate of retail stores in downtown in one indicator the city is looking to understand the current needs of the community. First floor shops are around 23 percent vacancy in the central business district and its almost 30 percent along the 16th Street Mall. Leaders acknowledge hospitality and construction industries are among those most affected by the pandemic.

“Every level of government is moving swiftly and boldly to get this country, our state, and our city back to work,” Hancock said. “We’ve faced these challenges before and come back stronger and you know what, we’re going to do it again.”

The proposal for the bond package will go before the city council later this year, if approved, voters will see it on the November ballot. A community outreach session will start in May to get feedback from residents and drive a final list of projects funded by the recovery plan.

Shawn Chitnis