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Editor’s note: After this article was first posted Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon that his administration is stopping all negotiations on a stimulus deal until after the Nov. 3 election.
Back to early August, Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said it would be “terrifying” for our local economy and his valley-wide chamber membership if Congress went on recess without passing another round of COVID-19 stimulus. Congress never acted.
With just four weeks until Election Day on Nov. 3, RealVail.com put that question to Romer once again and asked what adjective he would use if Congress fails to act before the election.
“Business conditions remain terrifying for specific business sectors – including restaurants, theatres, group and meeting facilities, event producers, transportation providers, live music venues and others that rely on gathering large numbers of people in close quarters,” Romer replied on Monday.
“Business conditions were better than expected for some retailers and activity providers [over the summer],” he added. “Most other sectors are persevering through in survival mode, but we will require additional federal support to help businesses thrive in the future.”
There’s renewed hope for some version of a new stimulus package this week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin kicked off more robust negotiations fueled in part by the added urgency of the looming election and President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted from the hospital: “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!”
Enhanced unemployment benefits, expanded PPP loans, rental eviction protections, additional state and local government funding and money for hospitals and stepped-up COVID-19 testing all hang in the balance.
The Democrat-controlled House, including Vail-area U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, has twice passed versions of the Heroes Act stimulus package – one for $3.4 trillion in May and then last week a $2.2 trillion compromise version. Mnuchin has said something around $1.5 trillion might pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which recently passed a $650 billion “skinny” stimulus bill.
Romer, whose organization just won the 2020 Chamber of the Year Award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, was also asked about the consequences of congressional inaction before the election.
“Inaction isn’t a viable strategy; it will result in increased pressure on the unemployment system and social services,” Romer said, expanding on what he would like to see in a new round of stimulus. “We need to broaden the definition of forgivable expenses in the PPP to include costs associated with protecting employees and customers and expand the period during which expenses qualify for loan forgiveness.
“We also need to provide meaningful business liability protection for businesses who follow applicable federal, state, and local guidelines to protect them from COVID-related exposure liability. These are bi-partisan commonsense areas, and inaction from Washington will continue to put pressure on our small businesses – and keeping in mind that 90% of Eagle County businesses have 20 or fewer employees, this is essential.”
The issue of another round of stimulus as hard-hit western Colorado and the rest of the nation heads into an uncertain winter — with COVID-19 still raging and more than 210,000 Americans dead — has entered into the down-ballot races on Nov. 3.
Just hours before Trump tweeted his support for more stimulus on Saturday, 3rd Congressional District Republican candidate and political newcomer Lauren Boebert tweeted her opposition to another stimulus bill to help struggling small businesses, unemployed people losing their health insurance and state and local governments facing critical budget shortfalls.
“The best stimulus package is reopening America!” Boebert tweeted Saturday morning.
Her Democratic opponent, former Eagle and Routt County state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, supports more targeted stimulus, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which recently blasted Boebert – a Rifle restaurant owner — for her lack of transparency and actual policy experience.
“Mitsch Bush wants any future stimulus to include investment in infrastructure: broadband, transportation, the electric grid and water. Infrastructure projects get people back to work immediately and set the table for future prosperity, she said,” the Sentinel reported.
“Workers displaced from the Western Slope’s fossil-fuel industries by declining markets have the skills needed to transition to 21st century manufacturing, she said. Her goal of creating more living-wage jobs in the district revolves around incentives for more small manufacturing operations. The pandemic exposed supply shortages, so why not position the district for medical manufacturing?” the Sentinel wrote of Mitsch Bush.
Boebert, a Silt resident who has said she hopes the debunked and dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory is true, has the Sarah Palin rallying cry “Drill, baby, Drill!” in her primary policy piece that she calls her “Contract with Colorado”.
While highly critical of Boebert, the Sentinel did not endorse either candidate in the race for the district that stretches from Grand Junction to Pueblo and includes the western two-thirds of Eagle County. Both the Denver Post and the Pueblo Chieftain have backed Mitsch Bush.