El Paso County Spending for the Sake of Spending

Photo Credit: The Economist

El Paso County has received $139.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) taxpayer money. As a reminder, ARPA money is your federal tax money. 

Have you wondered where all that El Paso County ARPA taxpayer dollars went? The El Paso County Commissioners and bureaucrats were in charge of awarding the money. After reading about how $9,000,000 of the funds were allocated to area non-profits, we took a look at the 50 Community Impact Grants.

What is an El Paso County Community Impact Grant?

It’s a taxpayer funded, monetary award to a non-profit organization for a specific program. The requirements the County staff considered for the county grants were: 

  • The entity must hold a non-profit status 501 (c)(3); 
  • The entity must be able to document how the proposed program or service will address an identified negative impact resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic; 
  • The organization must be located in El Paso County.

The county required the funds to be used to establish or expand programs in the following areas: 

  • Counseling
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health 
  • Behavioral health
  • Suicide prevention
  • Employment assistance
  • Financial and debt counseling or budgeting 
  • Legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness
  • Food insecurity

Funds could also be used to hire and pay staff. The county additionally allowed the funds to be used to provide sports, music, and club scholarships meant to cover the cost of enrollment and registration fees to youth residing in El Paso County. 

The Award Decisions

County staff and volunteers ranked each applicant to decide who would get what amount. The grant applications were discussed by county employees and commissioners at an informal county meeting on January 11, 2022. Commissioner Cami Bremer was the commissioner liaison for the Community Impact Grants. 

Were any of the awards controversial? Were some of the applications discussed more thoroughly than others? We’ll never know. There are no meeting minutes, and the public meeting was not recorded. When $9 million of your hard-earned money is spent, there should have been a public record of the discussion. 

The Spending Celebration 

Following the meeting and commissioners’ decisions, the county held a press conference to announce the awards. Watch that meeting here.  Commissioner Bremer, county employees, and recipient organizations made public comments. Bremer called El Paso County an organization committed to doing the “next right thing.” She said the funding for the non-profit programs would help our community remain strong and resilient. 

Do these organizations need another $9 million to keep us strong and resilient? We’re not as confident as Commissioner Bremer. We asked for a list of the organizations that received money, and the amounts of your tax money that was awarded to them. There were no details about what programs each of these organizations came up with that needed funding. We’ve asked the county for more details.  

Here’s who received your money:

OrganizationMoney Received
Pikes Peak United Way$1,200,000 
Care & Share Food Bank Inc$700,000 
Mountain Springs Church$400,000 
Silver Key Senior Services Inc$400,000 
Springs Recovery Connection$400,000 
Aspenpointe Health Services$400,000 
Mt Carmel Veterans Service Center$300,000 
Joint Initiatives for Youth and Families$300,000 
Inside Out Youth Services$300,000 
The PLACE$300,000 
Solid Rock Community Development$250,000 
Food To Power$250,000 
Springs Rescue Mission$230,000 
Safe Passage$225,660 
Catholic Charities of Colorado$200,000 
Forge Evolution$200,000 
United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum$200,000 
Careers in Construction Colorado$150,000 
Crossroads Turning Points Inc$150,000 
Homeward Pikes Peak$150,000 
Kingdom Builder’s Family Life$150,000 
Atlas Preparatory School $148,000 
Community Partnership for Children$110,000 
Boys and Girls Club$100,000 
Savio House$99,440 
Suicide Prevention Partnership of the Pikes Peak Region$93,200 
Crossfire Ministries Inc$72,000 
The Colorado Springs Child Nursery$70,000 
Heartspace Kids Inc$70,000 
Dream Centers-Mary’s Home $68,800 
CASA of the Pikes Peak Region$60,000 
Cheyenne Village Inc$60,000 
El Paso Pride Soccer Associate$50,000 
Project Angel Heart$50,000 
The Salvation Army$50,000 
Converge Lecture Series$35,000 
Garden of the Gods Foundation$30,000 
The Mindfulness and Positivity$30,000 
Colorado Springs Conservatory$25,000 
The Catamount Institute$25,000 
Southern Colorado Athletic Club$20,000 
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film $15,000 
Colorado Springs Sports Corporation$15,000 
Dance Alliance of the Pikes Peak Region$10,000 
Times of Refreshing Tabernacle$7,000 

Now, many of these seem like nice charities, but is it government’s job to spend your hard-earned money on charities?

We suspect that the program outcomes for most of these grants won’t be measurable, that no one in the county will ask them to measure program outcomes, and that most of the money has been thrown into the wind. Government created a lot of the problems during COVID, and now they are indicating they are here to help, using your money to fix the problems they helped to create. 

Which reminds us of this saying:

Should politicians put taxpayers on the hook for funding non-profit charities? 

We have questions:

Is it proper to commit large sums of taxpayer money to groups that are typically funded by private donations? 

Did some of these nonprofits hear about the available grants, and rush to come up with programs, or expand existing programs, to meet the award criteria?

The federal government put spending rules in place for the ARPA money. Do you believe that there were other places the money could have been better spent? Or, would you have preferred the county not have accepted the ARPA money in the first place?  

El Paso County did not have to accept the ARPA funds. In fact, a small number of communities refused the money.  Now that we do have the funds, however, they could have been used for public safety, as well as water projects to protect the county from future drought. With local government always saying it needs more money for these essentials, the money might have been spent in an area of higher priority. 

We’re against the money being used to “advance equity,” as is being suggested by the White House. It appears at least some of the money has been spent in that manner. 

Funds that have gone unspent by December 31, 2024 have to be returned. Apparently, there is an incentive to spend it all. 

County Commissioners need to read the room. People in the Pikes Peak region are hurting financially, and inflation is up. It’s time to change the big spending, “let the good times roll,” government attitude. 

Today, it seems that fiscal restraint is no longer fashionable with most of our local elected public servants. In our households, we’re all being forced to evaluate our spending —that same evaluation needs to happen with government. 

We’d like to see the rebirth of fiscal restraint. Right now, it feels extinct.

Contact the County Commissioners and ask them about their plans to stick to the basic functions: roads and public safety (police and fire.) We want to know where are they cutting back, and how are they shrinking government during these financially trying and unprecedented times. Our new normal needs to be government tightening its belt. 

Cami Bremer  CamiBremer@elpasoco.com

Carrie Geitner  CarrieGeitner@elpasoco.com

Longinos Gonzalez  LonginosGonzalezJr@elpasoco.com  

Stan Vanderwerf  stanvanderwerf@elpasoco.com

Holly Williams   HollyWilliams@elpasoco.com

One thought on “El Paso County Spending for the Sake of Spending

  1. When Holly Williams and hubby Wayne get around money, watch out! They will waste it, always have always will.

    Nothing is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.