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.