Whats The 411?
Political and policy related articles.
As we head into the New Year, we get to look forward to the opportunities that are going to present themselves. The incredibly difficult situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic will not quickly dissipate, but I look forward to getting back to the hard work that beckons so that we can continue creating policy to help Coloradans through this difficult time. In this newsletter, you will find some updates on actions we are currently taking and next steps for the upcoming session.
Legislative Session Update
Earlier this year, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the General Assembly’s position that Joint Rule 44 allows the legislature to pause its work during a declared public health emergency and return at a later date without those days during the recess counting towards the 120-day limit. The General Assembly will convene on January 13 and meet for as little time as necessary to address urgent business and attend to certain constitutional and statutory obligations such as swearing in new members. The General Assembly will then go into a temporary recess, with the aim of returning to the Capitol tentatively on February 16 to continue the legislative session when the peak of the pandemic will hopefully have subsided. However, if an emergency arises that requires immediate legislative attention, the General Assembly maintains its commitment to responding in whatever format deemed necessary, including temporarily coming back into session to pass urgent legislation.
The members of the General Assembly met last month to alleviate some of Colorado’s most immediate needs, and we are committed to acting with the same precision and forethought as we continue to address Colorado’s needs in the upcoming session. Recessing until mid-February will place the General Assembly and those working around us farther from the holiday spike in COVID-19 cases and allow our work to take place in a safer environment. With the first batch of vaccines being distributed in the state over the past couple of weeks, the end of this pandemic is in sight – but it is critical that we be more vigilant, not less.
Programs Created by Extraordinary Session
Last month, I reached out in the immediate aftermath of the Extraordinary Session to provide some information on emergency relief legislation that we passed to help Coloradans. Since then, many of these programs have been put into action, so I’ve included some information below to help you, or anyone you know, access these programs to help get through the pandemic. Please reach out if you need any further assistance navigating these programs.
Tax Relief and Support for Small Businesses
- SB20B-001(COVID-19 Relief Small And Minority Businesses Arts Organizations): provides $50 million in direct assistance for small businesses impacted by capacity limits. Information on how to access these funds can be found at the Office of Economic Development and International Trade Website.
- HB20B-1004(Qualified Retailer Retain Sales Tax for Assistance) gives up to $10,000 per month in tax relief to local restaurants and other service industry businesses to help them stay open and continue to pay employees as they lose revenue due to the pandemic. Here is the information for Restaurant and Bar Sales Tax Deduction Instructions, and here is the tax deduction instructions for Mobile Food Vendors
Rental and Mortgage Assistance
- SB20B-002(Housing and Direct COVID Emergency Assistance) provides $50 million in additional funding to initiatives that have been proven to be successful at helping keep Coloradans stay in their homes, including $500,000 to the Eviction Legal Defense Fund. You can find this assistance here: Housing and Rental Assistance for Landlords and Tenants.
Utility Payment Assistance
- SB20B-003(Money for Energy Utility Bill Payment Assistance) provides $5 million in funding to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund to meet the 25% increase in applications that Energy Outreach Colorado has seen this year. You can find this assistance at Energy Outreach Colorado
Support for and Expansion of Affordable Child Care
- HB20B-1002(Emergency Relief Programs for Child Care Sector) allocates $45 million to expand access to affordable child care and help keep child care providers in business. Information on how to apply for these grants can be found here.
- HB20B-1003(Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program) provides $3 million in grants to replenish local food banks. Food banks across Colorado can be found here
Lawsuit over SB20B-001
A Colorado Springs constituent filed a lawsuit against Gov. Polis after he signed Senate Bill 1 into law because of the $4 million that SB1 carved out for minority owned businesses. We are concerned that this lawsuit could put other stimulus money at risk, so we are addressing the language in SB1 to ensure that this money can be delivered to the people of Colorado. We are working on new language that still preserves the intention of providing assistance to the minority owned businesses that are particularly struggling across the state, but also puts us on firm legal ground.
As your State Senator, I am continuing to work hard to ensure that our community gets the resources it needs to get through the challenges we face. While the next legislative session will be delayed for a month, there is plenty of work to be done in the meantime to prepare for the important work to come. I hope the information in this newsletter is informative and that you and remain safe and healthy. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.