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Gov. Jared Polis and state legislative leaders on Wednesday issued the following press release rounding up the results of an emergency special session this week to provide COVID-19 pandemic relief:
DENVER – Governor Polis and Legislative Leadership today discussed the successful special legislative session and announced the passage of bipartisan legislation to provide COVID-19 relief.
“The bipartisan efforts achieved this week will help folks get through the challenging months ahead. I’m thrilled we are acting now as a state to improve internet access for students and educators, give a much needed boost to child care providers, provide a lifeline for small businesses and restaurants through tax relief and assistance, and bridge the gap on rent, utilities and food pantry programs for Coloradans who have been hit the hardest,” said Gov. Polis. “But we know there is more work to be done and we continue to urge Washington to take action and give Coloradans the support we need to get through these tougher times and build back stronger.”
The legislation passed during special session provides support to small businesses, helps families avoid eviction or foreclosure, keep the lights on, and access safe child care, and ensure every Coloradan has a fair shot to get through this pandemic and succeed as our state recovers.
“During this session, we worked in a bipartisan way to use our limited state resources to help those who have been hit hardest by this pandemic,” said Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. “Colorado stepped up to bridge the gap until we have a vaccine or until Congress can pass relief. In the absence of Washington, we deployed every tool and all the state resources we have to boost our small businesses, preserve safe child care options for working parents, and help families make ends meet.”
“I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished during this Extraordinary Session. With limited resources, we were able to come together and work across the aisle to deliver results for our state – passing meaningful legislation to address child care shortages, housing instability, and small business struggles. At the same time, the people of Colorado are not out of the woods yet, families and businesses are fighting to survive, and without Congressional action, people will continue to suffer serious, lasting consequences. But hope is on the horizon, and with aid successfully on its way, we can hold on a little longer,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.
Legislation approved by the legislature includes:
SB20B-001 sponsored by Senators Faith Winter and Kevin Priola, will send $57 million in direct aid, grants, and annual fee waivers to struggling small businesses – prioritizing those operating in counties experiencing severe capacity restrictions. It will also create grant programs and allocate funds specifically for art and cultural organizations as well as minority-owned businesses.
SB20B-002 sponsored by Senators Julie Gonzales and Chris Holbert, provides $60 million for emergency housing assistance to individuals and households who are in financial need due to the COVID-19. Of that funding, $1 million will specifically support the Eviction Legal Assistance Fund, which will help Coloradans stay in their homes this winter. Finally, the bill puts in place a provision that seeks to ensure tens of thousands of unemployed Coloradans can continue to have access to the federally funded State Extended Benefits Program through December 26.
SB20B-003 sponsored by Senators Rhonda Fields and Larry Crowder, appropriates $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund in order to provide financial relief to Coloradans that are struggling to pay their utility bills – a dangerous outcome in the winter months.
SB20B-004 sponsored by Senator Dominick Moreno, allocates an additional $100 million to ensure the state can continue to protect public health while waiting for further federal stimulus and reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
HB20B-1001, sponsored by Reps. Mary Young and Matt Soper will dedicate $20 million towards increasing our state’s broadband capacity – connecting more students to their teachers so that they can learn safely in the months ahead. Internet access is absolutely essential for students during this difficult time. But many families who are struggling with financial stability simply can’t afford to cover the cost, while numerous school districts lack the infrastructure to educate their students remotely.
“This special session shows what is possible when people from both parties work together–we can provide meaningful relief to help the small businesses and families who have been hit hardest by this pandemic,” said Speaker-designate Alec Garnett, D-Denver. “We have challenging months ahead, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While we know more help is needed from Washington, this assistance will support small businesses who are struggling to stay open and deliver relief for Colorado families to help them through the pandemic.”
“Coloradans take care of Coloradans,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “Despite the incessant partisan bickering among our friends in the federal government, I’m deeply grateful that we were able to set a better example – putting differences aside and coming together around a common purpose. This pandemic has been brutally hard, affecting every part of our lives, but things will get better. And hopefully what we accomplished here will lighten the load for families and small businesses through the difficult winter months ahead.”
HB20B-1002, sponsored by Reps. Cathy Kipp & Lois Landgraf will distribute $45 million to enable existing child care providers to keep their doors open and new providers to open and meet the needs of working parents, especially in child care deserts. Colorado’s economic recovery depends on its workforce having access to stable child care, but due to temporary closures and the increased costs of health and safety precautions for child care providers, many are on the brink of financial collapse. These grant programs are estimated to support 2,600 child care facilities, preserving child care for over 100,000 children and creating capacity for tens of thousands more. Moreover, research shows that for every dollar spent on early childhood programs, $2.25 is contributed to our state’s economy.
HB20B-1003, sponsored by Reps. Lisa Cutter and Rod Bockenfeld will devote $5 million to replenishing essential community services that increase access to food for Colorado families facing food insecurity. 1 in 3 Coloradans are struggling with hunger as more and more families are being forced to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table. Food banks, food pantries and their partners need additional assistance to meet the rising demands, especially as the December expiration for federal hunger relief looms.
HB20B-1004, sponsored by Reps. Alex Valdez & Kevin Van Winkle, will allow restaurants, bars, and food trucks to retain state sales tax they collect from November 2020 through February 2021. This will provide bars and restaurants up to $2,000 per location and limited to five locations for up to $10,000 in tax relief each month to help them make ends meet.
The Governor and legislative leadership held a press conference following the special session today. Watch the news conference here.