District Attorney George Brauchler is falsely claiming that Gov. Polis is withholding millions in federal COVID-19 funding from rural counties and cities.
In a Sunday opinion column in The Denver Post, Brauchler warned of an impending “crime wave” due to several pandemic-related issues, including a lack of funding for local law enforcement.
The Federal CARES Act provided $450 million to Colorado for counties and municipalities to offset some of their massive COVID-19 expenditures. Otherwise, the resulting budget crunch would lead to reducing public safety resources. Recently, Governor Polis’ administration indicated that it intends to keep that money to backfill the state’s budget. We will likely have less law enforcement resources just as we need them most.
He then concludes, “I want to be wrong, but these factors must be discussed as we weigh the impact of the governor’s orders on our state.”
If Brauchler indeed “wants to be wrong,” then he should be pleased to know that Governor Polis has already taken the time to correct this particular error.
In an April 17 letter to the governor, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) became the first Colorado elected official to get this wrong–expressing the same concern that Brauchler is now repeating weeks later.
In an April 22 reply, Polis took his former U.S. House colleague to task for “proliferat[ing] misinformation related to the $1.7 billion in Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars the state and its local governments are slated to benefit from.”
He also noted the apparent origin of the rumor–an email from the Colorado Counties Association director John Swartout, which incorrectly stated that Congress designate a portion of the CARES Act funds, “to go to local governments under 500,000 in population ‘as Congress intended.’”
The bill’s language does no such thing. Rather, it restricts direct access to the money to local governments with over 500,000 residents.
The Colorado Fiscal Institute highlights the specific language addressing the CARES Act funding for local governments in a recent report on the federal response to COVID-19 in Colorado:
“Among the most important provisions of the CARES Act is a $150 billion relief fund for state, local, and tribal governments. The money is distributed to states based on population and the state allocation must be shared with local governments that have more than 500,000 residents.”
All of Colorado’s elected officials appear to be in agreement that this restriction doesn’t make sense. Congressman Joe Neguse introduced his own bill to fund local government on April 7. In his letter to Tipton, Polis characterized the limit as “inexplicable.” Tipton joined his colleagues in the Colorado delegation in another letter calling on leadership to lift the restriction in future relief bills.
According to Ashby’s reporting, at least one other Western Slope Republican who had repeated Tipton’s claim, state Rep. Janice Rich (R-Grand Junction), subsequently corrected her public media post, “after checking the matter with the U.S. Department of the Treasury.”
Sunday’s opinion column isn’t the first time Brauchler has promoted this fallacy. He was even more specific last week on Independence Institute director Jon Caldara’s online talk show, “Freedom On Tap.”
Caldara: My biggest worry is the the federal government backfills the states with made-up money- printed money, and therefore there’s no cost to the shutdowns that these governors have created. There has to be a cost, because if we just paper it up with paper money fiat currency, this isn’t the emergency; the economic collapse is the emergency…
Brauchler: “I worry about that as well and it’s already happening! So for instance, there’s a CARES Act as you know, which is this giant multi trillion-dollar–I don’t know if you want to call it a rescue fund, stimulus, bailout, whatever it is. There’s a huge chunk of it–hundreds of billions of dollars–that were intended to go to the states, so that they could pass through to municipalities and counties less than five hundred thousand. Well, the state–that’s Governor Polis–has already sent signals to the counties and the cities, ‘You’re not going to get any of this money. The state is gonna hold on to this money. We’re gonna use it to backfill our three billion dollars shortfall because of the tax revenue, and you need to go back to the Congress, you need to go back to FEMA and beg for more money.’ So what you’re talking about is in the works right now and that’s not how it should be. Only five of 64 counties qualify to get direct money from Congress, the others are being told to suck it by the state of Colorado- that ain’t right.”
It isn’t right because it isn’t true.
Reached by phone last weekend, Brauchler declined to comment, asking instead for an interview to scheduled with his office. Efforts to reach him on Monday and Tuesday at his office were unsuccessful.