By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package was signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 to speed economic recovery as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen traveled to Denver with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff to see the ARP at work.

“It’s great to be back in Colorado,” said Emhoff. “Unemployment numbers are down and people are back to work. There are plenty of jobs out there and it’s great. You see the economy cooking.” Emhoff’s wife, Vice President Kamala Harris, was on her way back to the U.S. from Poland during his visit to Denver.

The City of Denver received more than $300 million from the American Rescue Plan. The U.S. Treasury delivered the funds in two payments of $154 million in 2021 and 2022.

(From L) US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and US Mint Deputy Director Ventris Gibson listen to a presentation during a tour of the Denver Mint in Denver, Colorado on March 11, 2022. - The Denver Mint is one of two locations that manufactures coins for the new American Women Quarters Program, which includes the Maya Angelou quarter dollar coin.

(From L) US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and US Mint Deputy Director Ventris Gibson listen to a presentation during a tour of the Denver Mint in Denver, Colorado on Friday. (credit: JASON CONNOLLY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Some of that funding was allocated to businesses like Mi Casa Resource Center for workforce development training. Funds are being used to support recruitment, career coaching, adult education and English as a Second Language programming. Friday afternoon, Emhoff and Yellen took a tour of Mi Casa with state and city leaders.

Mi Casa received $325,000 in assistance for a Workforce Innovation grant focused on reskilling and upskilling job seekers. CEO Angeles Ortega thanked leaders for their investment in one of Denver’s underserved communities.

“With this support, we were able to grow and expand our services and serve even more participants in-person and virtually. While our community is strong and resilient, these funds have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors,” said Ortega.
At Mi Casa, 81% of recipients are BIPOC. 82% are low-income and 43% are considered very-low income.

Yellen told reporters Friday the stimulus package was designed so that different communities, with different needs, could meet the different challenges they face.
“City department heads were asked to find 7.5 percent worth of cuts in their budgets. Public employees, including the mayor, were furloughed to save funds,” said Yellen. “Denver was able to rehire 265 city staff positions left vacant because of pandemic-related cuts. The city is returning this year to 2020 spending levels.”

Janet Yellen

(credit: CBS)

The city says the economic recovery is due in part to federal financial support.
Yellen says she’s seen the impact of the ARP throughout the state.

“Think of Pueblo, which used $280,000 to increase housing stability for homeless and low income individuals,” said Yellen. “Fort Collins allocated $400,000 for multicultural business to address gaps in the current business support system that affects small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, women and low-income individuals.”

Gov. Jared Polis, who was also in attendance Friday, says the state is currently working to put Rescue Plan bonds toward housing statewide.

“We are now working with Republican and Democratic leaders in the legislature to not only allocate $500 million American Rescue Plan bonds directly to housing, but to leverage those funds with local government and private developers to unlock billions of dollars of housing in Colorado to reduce costs for working families.”
However, rent isn’t the only thing breaking many budgets. The cost of gas and food continue to rise. Yellen says the Fed is working to address it.

“Inflation is a problem and it’s something we have to deal with. I think it reflects supply chain problems. As spending normalizes and our economy opens up, I think some of that will ease and we’re doing what we can to mitigate supply chain problems where we can,” said Yellen. “Even with inflation, and the problems that the Russia and Ukraine situation is causing, I think the economy will do well this year.”

While prices continue to rise, Yellen says communities in Denver and across Colorado are better off today than they would be without the American Rescue Plan.

Tori Mason