Colorado lawmakers to withhold business stimulus in non-compliant counties

Politics

DENVER (KDVR) — State lawmakers are considering a small business stimulus proposal that would require counties to enforce state health restrictions in order to qualify for relief.

The bipartisan bill passed nearly unanimously in the Senate, but it is still receiving criticism from some Republicans. Regardless, $37 million of small business relief appears to be on a fast-track to becoming law in Colorado.

If passed and signed by the governor, businesses in counties that do not enforce state health orders will not enjoy their piece of the stimulus pie.

“If the county is not complying with COVID restrictions, then they’re not closed … and they’re opening and still operating and they wouldn’t qualify for this fund,” said State Rep. Leslie Herod, of Denver, representing Colorado’s Eighth House District.

Herod, a Democrat, is championing the bill in the House of Representatives after bipartisan passage in the Senate.

“We wanted to target [the legislation] to those businesses that were really impacted by the public health orders,” said State Sen. Faith Winter, of Westminster, representing Colorado’s 24th Senate District.

The only senator to vote against the measure was Republican State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg from the eastern Plains.

“I think [the bill] is a hammer … hammering on rural areas of the state,” Sonnenberg, who represents Colorado’s First Senate District, said.

He argued the bill, as is, will not fairly distribute the needed relief.

“There are a number of counties that are not in full compliance,” Sonnenberg said. “I’m not sure what full compliance actually means.”

While compliance issues can be found in virtually every Colorado county, some counties, like Weld County, have stood in direct defiance to the orders of Gov. Jared Polis.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Herod said.

For businesses in cities following mandates– even if their county is not—Winter said there’s hope.

“Those cites, either individually or collectively, can work together to apply for this money,” Winter explained.

State money would be sent to counties or cities and then distributed to qualified businesses.

Sponsors of the bill said the $37 million is just a start. They consider the legislation a gap measure until the next round of federal stimulus is realized. The bill, that started in the Senate, had reached consideration in the House on Tuesday.

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