DENVER, Colo. (KDVR) – On Thursday, House and Senate Democrats announced a package of legislation that would help Coloradans recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and return to work safely.
Many of the bills direct funding from the federal CARES Act to vulnerable Coloradans as well as small businesses.
“We are working to pass legislation that directly supports families and small businesses, helps Coloradans get back to work safely and protects the health and safety of our communities,” said Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder. “Coloradans are looking to us for leadership and how we will help them rebuild their lives. These bills provide direct support to help hardworking Coloradans afford to stay in their homes, pay their bills and make ends meet.”
The following legislation has been proposed:
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Small Business Grants: This bill will be introduced in the Senate and will direct $20 million dollars to the Energize Colorado Fund, which will provide assistance to small businesses in Colorado who have suffered hardship because of COVID-19. In addition, this fund would provide grants to businesses with less than 25 employees, and would specifically focus on those who did not qualify for SBA PPP loans.
- Small Business Recovery Loans: This bill establishes a small business recovery loan fund that consists of $250 million of state and private dollars for first loss capital on loans to small businesses over the next two fiscal years.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment: This bill will allocate $15 million to critical mental health programs and substance abuse treatment within the Colorado Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health and Environment.
- Whistleblower Protection for Public Health Emergencies: This policy protects workers who raise health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic from retaliation and requires employers to allow their workers to wear personal protective equipment, such as masks.
- Ensuring Paid Sick Leave: This bill will allow those who are feeling ill to protect their coworkers, customers, and loved ones by staying home, without the fear of losing their income.
- Reimbursement For Telehealth Services: This legislation protects patients’ ability to receive care via telehealth that was granted during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This access could be removed when the declared emergency ends unless the state legislature acts.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for 2-1-1: . The bill is being amended to allocate $500,000 to continue these expanded services through December.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Domestic Violence Program: House Democrats passed a budget amendment to provide $500,000 in additional funding for the Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Program to support the increased number of domestic violence victims seeking services as a result of spending more time at home with their abusers while following public health orders and recommendations.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Housing Cash Assistance: The bill provides $20 million in direct rental and mortgage assistance to Coloradans experiencing a financial need during these turbulent times, including $350,000 for legal aid for renters at risk of eviction.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Utilities: The bill allocates $10 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, which helps low-income Coloradans who are at risk of having their service shut off.
- Protections Against Price Gouging: This bill establishes that a person engages in an unfair or unconscionable act or practice if they increase the cost of certain necessary goods or services an excessive amount.
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for Food Pantry Assistance: The bill creates a food pantry assistance grant program and allocates $500,000 to support Colorado’s most vulnerable across the state and to create new market opportunities for Colorado agricultural products.
- Expand Access to Unemployment Insurance: This bill works to expand those who qualify for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and increase the benefits workers can receive.
- Strengthening Debt Protections: This bill expands the ability of the Attorney General to provide oversight of extraordinary debt collection actions, like garnishment.