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Colorado Says It Needs More Federal Aid To Survive Financial Effects Of COVID-19


This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

In Colorado, lawmakers had to slash about a quarter of the budget to keep state finances in the black. Of the $3.3 billion cut, education and health care were hit especially hard.

"We kind of have to cut off some fingers, here, to save the hand. So it's going to be really tough," says Democratic state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, who serves on Colorado's Joint Budget Committee.

In all, the Legislature cut $500 million to school districts, though Democratic Gov. Jared Polis designated much of Colorado's share of the federal relief money from the CARES Act to replace most of that lost funding.

But unless Congress acts again, that money is a one-time fix that must be spent by December. Also, some school districts are confused about how they can use the federal dollars, which were delivered to the state for expenses specifically related to the coronavirus pandemic, not to backfill regular state spending cuts to programs such as education.

Bente Birkeland is the public affairs reporter at Colorado Public Radio.

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Bente Birkeland has covered Colorado politics and government since spring of 2006. She loves the variety and challenge of the state capitol beat and talking to people from all walks of life. Bente's work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, American PublicMedia's Marketplace, and she was a contributor for WNYC's The Next Big Thing. She has won numerous local and national awards, including best beat reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Bente grew up in Minnesota and England, and loves skiing, hiking, and is an aspiring cello player. She lives in Lakewood with her husband.