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DENVER (KDVR) — Thousands of Coloradans could see unemployment benefits run dry at the end of July, which could cause economic devastation for families that are already struggling to get by. 

The U.S. House passed the HEROES Act two months ago to stimulate the economy, but the Senate has not taken up any stimulus bills in that time.

“If they don’t get back and get ahead of it, instead of waiting until the last minute, they won’t do a good job,” said former governor and Democratic candidate for Senate John Hickenlooper. “They’ve got to be focusing on small businesses. They have to make sure they’re getting resources for counties and states.”

“John Hickenlooper is the last one that should be complaining about attendance given that he didn’t even show up for his own ethics trial,” said Sen. Cory Gardner. 

The concern of $600 per week in enhanced unemployment payments running out is what drove a handful of protestors outside of a private fundraiser for Gardner in Longmont Wednesday evening. Gardner says he’s confident the Senate won’t drop the ball, and will extend benefits beyond July.

“There’s no doubt that unemployment benefits will be extended, but we need to get people back to work, that’s the important thing here,” Gardner said.

The Senator has been working on several proposals to stimulate the economy and enhance testing between the RESTART Act, the TEST Act and a proposal to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, which came up in a call with Colorado craft brewers this week.

“Several of them identified the Paycheck Protection Program specifically as being able to keep them in business,” Gardner said. “I’ve got some ideas to tweak that, to improve that.”

That includes extending PPP until the end of the year and giving businesses an opportunity to take out second loans.

But Hickenlooper cautions the first wave of relief gave bigger businesses an unchecked bailout, while leaving smaller shops to fight for scraps.

“All these big businesses got a huge chunk of the stimulus money, when we really need those small businesses, and I mean not just smaller than 500 employees, smaller than 100 employees, smaller than 10 employees,” Hickenlooper said. “Instead of getting pushed to the back of the line, which is what happened the first time, that they get a real chance to reopen and have some of the grants and loans that allow them to get back on their feet.”

Hickenlooper also points out the need for financial relief for cities and towns, as communities across Colorado face debilitating budget cuts and have to resort to furloughing employees. 

The former governor was critical of the Trump administration for a delayed response to the pandemic, saying the country still lags behind in adequate testing and protective equipment. 

“It’s so frustrating,” Hickenlooper said. “This is the United States of America. We used to be the competent country. We were the one that in a global pandemic would be helping everyone else, and now we’re walking around in circles and not making any progress on these huge challenges that we got to get right.”