Headlines April 14, 2020

Headlines April 14, 2020

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On Monday evening, the Denver City Council unanimously passed a proclamation urging Colorado Governor Jared Polis to freeze rent payments for anyone unable to pay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Denverite reports that The letter asks Polis “to use the full legal extent of his emergency powers to impose an immediate moratorium on residential and small business commercial rent payments for those unable to pay” through no fault of their own as thousands of city resident are impacted by the pandemic.

Council members also asked Denver’s congressional delegates and President Donald Trump to freeze mortgage payments for people who were affected.

Governor Polis has said that he does not support freezing rents, rather he’s asking cities to implement other measures like increasing rent subsidies.

Hundreds of prisoners could be eligible for this early release due to COVID-19 thanks to a recent executive order from Governor Jared Polis. The order allows the corrections department more flexibility in managing how many people are incarcerated. For example, corrections executive director Dean Williams can stop the intake of newly sentenced inmates from surrounding county jails.

Williams told the Denver Post that with these new measures in place, the prison system’s vacancy rate has grown from 1 percent to 4 percent. He called the change “remarkable.”

However, Williams also said that in order to properly fight the pandemic, the prison system will need to release at least 500 to 700 inmates from its population of approximately 17,000. This will allow the Department of Corrections to close a housing unit and transfer that unit’s staff to a vacant facility. The department hopes they could transform the empty prison into a quarantine facility, where new inmates would be taken for two weeks before joining the general population.

Once the quarantine facility is operating, the department plans to continue decreasing prison populations to better implement social distancing.
Williams also emphasized that prisoners who are being released must have somewhere to go, saying they would not be releasing anyone into homelessness at this phase.

As of April 8th, just one prison inmate had tested positive for COVID-19. Six Department of Corrections staff members had tested positive for the virus as of April 10th.

With all students in Colorado now doing online learning, many are struggling because they have limited access to the technology that is needed.

Currently, there are about 55,000 Colorado students who don’t have access to a computer or Chromebook, and about 64,000 don’t have access to the internet. Governor Jared Polis could extend the April 30th closed school order and the Colorado sun reports that as of now at least 20 school districts of Colorado’s 178 school districts have decided on remote schooling for the rest of the academic year.

Access to technology is complicating the move to online learning. Some households lack internet connection and computers or tablets. In 75 school districts in Colorado, more than 10% of households have no internet connection, and in 112 school districts, more than 10% of households do not have a computer amplifying the equity access gap among students.

Denver Public Schools, a district of about 92,000 students, has distributed about 40,000 devices, mostly Chromebooks to students in the past few weeks. DPS is also talking to internet service providers nationwide to ask about options to local families for internet access and by distributing hotspots.

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State health officials said today that the number of coronavirus cases in Colorado may be plateauing. Speaking to reporters today, the state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said that over the next couple days the state will be able to determine whether the level of social distancing that has taken place in Colorado is enough to lead to a decrease in the daily case count.

Right now it appears that the curve has been flattened in terms of the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

Scott Bookman, the state’s incident commander for COVID-19, said today that the volume of patients seem to be relatively flat. He added that the state is not seeing exponential growth.

This is welcome news for medical providers in the state who have been scrambling to access enough personal protective equipment for front line medical staff.

The Denver Post reports the state is still continuing construction on emergency hospitals at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver and the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland. Scott Bookman said today that they may decide to scale back if the additional space is not needed.

According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, 308 people have died of the novel Coronavirus in Colorado. Nearly 1500 people have been hospitalized and there have been outbreaks in 72 residential and non-hospital health care facilities throughout the state.

The City of Boulder announced today that it will furlough 737 employees as a result of the economic impact of the COVID 19 pandemic.

In a statement today, the city said these would be 175 standard employees and 562 seasonal and temporary workers.

Unpaid administrative leave for the furloughed employees will begin on April 20 and continue through June 28.  Decisions to recall staff to active service, extend the furlough, or layoff staff will be made by June 1.
City Manager Jane Brautigam said in a statement today that while the city is working to significantly reduce costs, the reality is that the financial impact requires immediate furloughs and may require future layoffs.

The town of Nederland announced this week that it is putting three town employees on temporary unpaid leave.

While on furlough, employees may be eligible for unemployment assistance.

The city of Boulder says it anticipates it will lose at least $28 million in revenue as a result of the pandemic. That amounts to about 10 percent of the city’s annual revenue. The City of Denver is expected to lose an estimated $180 million this year.

The Denver Post reports that more than 127,000 Coloradans filed unemployment claims between March 8-28.  That’s almost 4% of Colorado’s entire workforce.

It’s likely that many more thousands of workers have filed for unemployment assistance since March 28 as the pandemic impacts every aspect of the economy.

People can find information on how to file for unemployment assistance at coworkforce.com 

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