Colorado State Smart

Federal Funds in Colorado


Get State Smart about how the federal budget affects you. The federal budget is made up primarily of your dollars – and it's your right to know what's happening with that money.

Every day, residents of Colorado are affected by the federal budget. Federal dollars show up in your community through public services, roads and bridges, public assistance programs, clean air and water, and much more. You probably pay taxes to the federal government, send your children to schools that receive federal funds, or know someone who works for a federal agency or contractor. The impact of federal dollars flowing to and from Colorado is significant.

Based on the most recently available data, Colorado receives about $52 billion dollars from our federal budget over the course of a year, between federal grants and contracts to business and governments, federal assistance going right to its residents, and federal employees working there. Because the most recent data represent different time periods, we have combined data across different years to create this current best estimate.

At National Priorities Project, our mission is to make the federal budget understandable to all Americans and ensure that it reflects the priorities of all Americans. We hope State Smart helps you make your voice heard.

Note: State Smart reflects the most current budget data available. We update these numbers as we get them, so check back often. All numbers here are expressed in 2015 dollars.

State of Colorado

About 5.4 million people live in Colorado, our 38th state and the birthplace of Tim Allen. The largest ethnic racial group is White, followed by Hispanic. The median age is 36.

AIAN = American Indian or Alaska Native, NHPI = Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2014 1-year estimates

Colorado Unemployment

In 2014, the Colorado unemployment rate was 5.0%, compared to 6.2% for the U.S. overall. The official unemployment rate counts only those people who are actively seeking work. Many economists think it's important to take a broader view and count not only the officially unemployed, but also those who have given up looking for work or are unwillingly working part time because they can't find a full-time job.

Colorado Poverty

Overall, Colorado has a lower poverty rate than the U.S. The median household income in Colorado is $62,131, higher than the U.S. median of $54,382.

How Federal Money Gets to Colorado

There are four basic ways that federal dollars flow into Colorado, impacting you and your neighbors.

  1. Federal dollars in the Colorado budget, which fund public assistance programs.
  2. Direct benefits from the federal government, paid to individuals.
  3. Payments to vendors to perform federal contracts.
  4. Salaries paid to federal employees working in the state.

1. Federal Dollars in the Colorado Budget

Every state budget in the U.S. relies on money from the federal government, and many local budgets do too. Nationally, the percentage of state revenues that come from federal dollars jumped from 27.8% to 35.5% between 2008 and 2010, as Recovery Act money trickled down. In 2013, the most recent year on record, federal money made up 30% of revenues collected by the 50 states.

In 2013 Colorado got $6.6 billion dollars from the federal government, which is 27.8% of its total revenue.

That $6.6 billion funds public assistance programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and Community Development Block Grants.

Here's a breakdown for some of that money. To see these amounts over time and compare them to other states, visit the Federal Priorities Database Grants to States dataset.

$190.7 million

Housing & Community Development: $190.7 million

  • Public Housing
  • Section 8

$2.4 billion

Public Assistance: $2.4 billion

  • TANF
  • Medicaid
  • Block Grants

$1.5 billion

Education: $1.5 billion

  • School Nutrition
  • Head Start
  • Title 1

$764.5 million

Transportation: $764.5 million

  • Public Airports
  • Highways
  • Mass Transit

$78.6 million

Natural Resources and Agriculture: $78.6 million

  • Conservation, Flood Prevention, Fish and Wildlife

Did you know: Colorado has 370,480 bee colonies. (2012 Census of Agriculture)

$1.4 billion

Health and Hospitals: $1.4 billion

  • WIC
  • Veterans' Care
  • EPA Superfund

On top of the federal money going to the Colorado state budget, an additional $1.4 billion went directly to local governments within the state. This money funds everything from Community Development Block Grants to housing and disaster assistance to public transit improvements.

2. Federal Aid to Colorado Residents

In 2014, Colorado residents received about $24.7 billion in direct benefits from the federal government. That's about $4,607 per person.

Most of that money is Social Security and Medicare benefits, but it also includes food stamp benefits, unemployment benefits, and federal education assistance like Pell Grants.

3. Federal Contracts in Colorado

In 2014 the U.S. paid about $451.5 billion to vendors to perform contracts ranging from supplying the military with weapons to building websites. These contractors performed work in every single state, including $10.0 billion worth in Colorado, about $1,861 per resident.

Agency-wise, the biggest spender in Colorado was Department of Defense, which oversaw 40% of federal contract money in the state. Rounding out the top five list are Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration.

In the last five years, the total amount of money spent on federal contracts in Colorado has decreased. The Federal Priorities Database has details and maps comparing Colorado contracts to the rest of the country:

4. Federal Employees in Colorado

107,084 people in Colorado worked for the federal government in 2014. The average annual compensation for these workers - in other words, wages plus benefits - was $91,448. When compared to the average compensation for all jobs in the state, that's higher.

In total, those 107,084 federal workers in Colorado received $9.8 billion in compensation, about 6% of all wages and benefits earned by people who worked in the state. Compare that to Washington D.C., where federal workers represent 38% of all earned compensation , and Hawaii, where federal workers earn 20% of all compensation in the state.

To see how federal employees and compensation have changed over the years, visit the Federal Priorities Database:

Hint: there are fewer federal workers in Colorado than there used to be.

How Colorado Residents Contribute to the Federal Budget

Colorado residents and businesses contribute to the federal budget by paying:

  • income and self-employment taxes
  • business taxes
  • payroll taxes that fund programs like Social Security and Medicare
  • excise taxes on things like gasoline
  • estate and gift taxes

In 2014, Colorado residents and businesses paid $46.9 billion in federal taxes. Most of that is money paid by or on behalf of individuals in the form of income taxes, self-employment taxes, and payroll taxes.

NPP's Federal Priorities Database has this breakdown over time as well as a comparison of Colorado to other states in the U.S.

Another way of looking at federal taxes is to add up the categories and track the totals over time. As you can see below, per-person federal tax contributions dropped in nearly every state between 2008 and 2009: in the U.S. overall, they declined by 18%. The numbers have been rising in recent years and are now about equal to their pre-recession amounts.

NPP's Federal Priorities Database maps all of our business, individual, and total tax dollars, including a per-person breakdown. Hint: Colorado tax collections are going up.

Colorado Faces of the Federal Budget

We are spending 27 cents out of each tax dollar on the military.... I love this country [but] we need to find ways to reduce this burden by more than half. More

Bill from Denver, CO | Map

Has the federal budget impacted you, your family, or your community? Submit your story to our Faces of the Federal Budget project, and we'll include it in State Smart.

What's Next for Colorado?

Based on the most recently available data, Colorado receives about $52 billion dollars from our federal budget over the course of a year, between federal grants and contracts to business and governments, federal assistance going right to its residents, and federal employees working there. Because the most recent data represent different time periods, we have combined data across different years to create this current best estimate.

Share What Your Learned

Want a deeper dive?

Visit NPP's Federal Priorities Database, where you can create embeddable maps and download dozens of localized federal budget datasets, including the ones that power this website:

Want to get even more specific?

You can answer the questions below and many, many more by exploring the entire suite of NPP's interactive data tools.

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