Stimulus checks to put $10.5M in Routt County residents’ pockets


STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Now, with President Joe Biden’s signature on the American Rescue Plan, COVID-19 relief money will soon start flowing into Routt County in several different ways — including residents’ wallets.

The $1.9 trillion package includes direct payments to people, an extension of federal unemployment benefits, an increased child tax credit for this year, aid to state and local governments and targeted aid for restaurants, among other initiatives.

For John Bristol, economic development director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber, the $1,400 payments to people with incomes below $75,000 a year are the most significant piece of the package.

“The goal behind that is to create consumer confidence and help encourage some of that pent-up demand for folks to make some purchases,” Bristol said. “To me, when I look at it, that is the biggest component.”

About 4.7 million Coloradans, or 82% of the state’s population, are expected to get a stimulus check.

In Routt County, more than 7,500 people should be getting a $1,400 check from the federal government, according to 2019 estimates from the American Community Survey. In all, that means residents in the county will have more than $10.5 million to spend from just the direct stimulus portion of the package.

That number is larger still because people with incomes between $75,000 and $80,000 will also get a direct payment, but it will be less than $1,400. Those with incomes above that threshold will not receive a stimulus payment.

This additional money could support the hospitality and tourism industry locally, Bristol said, because local people have more money to spend.

Bristol said this package has been different in some ways to previous relief bills passed because of how consumer and stimulus focused it is.

“That was really targeted for business, to hold our businesses and corporations over through different funding programs,” Bristol said of the CARES Act passed last year. “This is focused more on the stimulus side of it, which is to encourage broader spending, and targeting lower- and middle-income folks.”

The relief bill also increases the child tax credit for one year, something that U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, has been pushing for since long before the pandemic. The credit will rise from $2,000 to $3,000 per child between the ages of 6 and 17 and to $3,600 for children younger than 6.

Bennet and other supporters of expanding the credit have said this will cut child poverty in half. According to Sen. John Hickenlooper’s office, about 57,000 children in Colorado will be lifted out of poverty because of this expansion.

The earned income tax credit has been nearly tripled this year because of the package, which will result in about 300,000 Coloradans without children seeing more money in their paycheck.

About $350 billion in the package is meant to support state and local governments, with about $6 billion of that going to cities, towns and counties within Colorado. According to Hickenlooper’s office, Routt County itself will see about $4.6 million of that money.

The city of Steamboat Springs will likely get about $2.6 million, and the town of Hayden will get about $390,000. Other municipalities in the county will also get direct relief, but totals are not immediately known.

“It is a really large amount of money, and it is going to provide the opportunity for Routt County and for the individual municipalities to address some really important projects that they otherwise would not be able to address,” Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.

He said they are allowed to spend some of the money on things like water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, and the county and other municipalities all have projects in mind.

Corrigan pointed to an upgrade for the wastewater system in Phippsburg costing about $1.1 million as one potential project. The county has been unable to secure grant funding for the $1.1 million project.

Dan Strnad, finance director for the county, said he is still figuring out how some of this aid money coming into the county will work, what it can be used for and the process for accessing it. It seems the county will be able to use some of it to make up for lost revenue from last year as well as some expenses related to COVID-19.

There is also a possibility that some of the money could be used to help cover a portion of the cost for the county’s new Health and Human Service’s Building, which is expected to break ground later this year, justifying it as a necessary public health expense, Corrigan said.

Corrigan said it is also possible there could be another round of business and nonprofit grants if there was some money left over, but he would favor this money being used to support capital projects.

“Something tangible that will benefit the community for years to come,” Corrigan said.

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