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State legislature to take up 8 bills for COVID-19 relief in special session

Originally published by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks in 9News.

DENVER — The Colorado General Assembly plans to take up eight bills focused on COVID-19 relief for families and businesses in the special session that begins Monday.

Senate and House Democrats announced the bills Sunday in a press release. Democrats have a majority in both chambers, but each of the bills has bipartisan sponsorship.

The legislation addresses the key areas that Democratic Gov. Jared Polis asked the General Assembly to take up when he announced the special session earlier this month.

“This pandemic is taking its toll on nearly every Coloradan, with businesses on the brink of closing and families struggling to avoid eviction or foreclosure," said state Senate Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) in a statement. "Only Washington can deliver the kind of comprehensive relief our communities need, but Coloradans can’t wait any longer. Our state government will step up with every tool we have, despite our limited budget, to do what we can to help bridge the gap until Congress acts and until a vaccine is ready.”

The House Republican caucus released a statement Sunday that says in part that it is "prepared to come back to work on Monday to help everyday Coloradans. We are offering ideas to help Colorado’s small businesses and families, from the folks who own the corner café to helping students and schools. The economic and social devastation of the COVID-19 epidemic is unprecedented and demands innovative solutions that put more money in folks’ pockets and give businesses a chance to survive."

The bills to be introduced Monday are:

Small Business Aid

  • Sponsors: Sens. Faith Winter and Kevin Priola, and Rep. Leslie Herod

  • What it does: Allocates $57 million in direct aid, grants and annual fee waivers to struggling small businesses, prioritizing those in counties with severe capacity restrictions. It also creates grant programs and allocates funds specifically for art and culture organizations and minority-owned businesses.

Sales Tax Relief

  • Sponsors: Reps. Alex Valdez and Kevin Van Winkle, and Sens. Jeff Bridges and Jack Tate

  • What it does: This bill is aimed at helping restaurants, bars and food trucks by allowing them to keep the state sales tax that they collect from November through February. This is intended to provide them with $2,000 to $10,000 in tax relief each month.

Child Care Support

  • Sponsors: Reps. Cathy Kipp and Lois Landgraf, and Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Jerry Sonnenberg

  • What it does: Distributes $45 million in grants to new and existing child care providers. The bill says this is enough to help keep open an estimated 2,600 child care facilities, many of which are on the brink of financial collapse, and preserve child care for more than 100,000 children.

Housing and Direct Rental Assistance

  • Sponsors: Sens. Julie Gonzales and Chris Holbert, and Reps. Tony Exum Sr. and Kerry Tipper

  • What it does: Allocates $50 million to emergency housing assistance to help those who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19. Of the funding, $500,000 will go to the Eviction Legal Assistance Fund.

Increasing Broadband Access

  • Sponsors: Sens. Kerry Donovan and Don Coram, and Reps. Mary Young and Matt Soper

  • What it does: It would put $20 million toward increasing the state's broadband capacity, to help students and families who can't afford internet access for school, and school districts that lack the infrastructure to educate students remotely.

Food Pantry Assistance

  • Sponsors: Reps. Lisa Cutter and Rod Bockenfeld and Sen. Tammy Story

  • What it does: Food banks and their partners require help to meet the needs of those who are struggling with food insecurity. This bill would devote $3 million to replenishing those community services to increase food access for Colorado households.

Utilities Assistance

  • Sponsors: Sens. Rhonda Fields and Larry Crowder and Reps. Monica Duran and Lois Landgraf

  • What it does: Appropriates $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund to meet the 25% increase in applications that the fund has seen this year, as unemployment remains high and Coloradans are struggling to pay their utility bills.

Public Health Response

  • Sponsors: Sens. Dominick Moreno and Bob Rankin and Rep. Julie McCluskie

  • What it does: Allocates an additional $100 million to ensure the state can continue to protect public health, as many hospitals across Colorado are reaching critical capacity.

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