Below are some of the COVID response measures the Colorado legislature passed in our 2020 regular session and the session on COVID relief. See below for details about each one and how to access assistance. Many of these efforts were continued or expanded in our 2021 legislative session, and some will be reviewed for further continuation in 2022 as well. See the powering the comeback resource guide” for more details.
Prohibitions Against Price Gouging in Disaster Emergencies (HB20-1414) – At the outset of COVID-19, Colorado was one of only about 15 states with no specific prohibition against price gouging – charging unconscionable or abusive prices to rip off consumers. I sponsored this bill to update the Colorado Consumer Protection Act to empower the attorney general and each district attorney to take action against sellers engaging in price gouging. Because retailers themselves may sometimes be victims of price gouging by another actor in the supply chain, the bill also makes clear that just passing on prices directly attributable to costs imposed by suppliers is not a violation of the new law. STATUS: signed into law.
Small Business Recovery Loans (HB20-1413) – Local businesses have been hit hard by COVID and most of our small businesses were not able to access the “Paycheck Protection Program” created through federal law earlier this year. To assist Colorado businesses, and in turn to help keep people employed, this bill creates the “small business recovery loan program.” Up to $50 million in loans will be available, with each loan not exceeding $500,000, and borrowers must be able to match 4:1 from other sources. For transparency and accountability, the making of loans will be overseen by a five member board with financial experience, and the board must hold open meetings and issue periodic reports on loans issued. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Small Business Grants (SB20-222) – To further support small businesses, this bill creates a grant program through the Office of Economic Development & International Trade totaling $20 million to support small Colorado businesses having up to 25 employees. Preference will be given to businesses that did not receive Federal Paycheck Protection Program support or that are majority owned by veterans, women, or members of minority communities. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
2020 special session update: certain COVID-impacted retail establishments may retain sales taxes otherwise required to be remitted to the state, as a form of economic assistance (HB20B-1004) and another $57 million is available to small businesses in aid and grants, with particular emphasis on minority-owned businesses (SB20B-001).
Housing Assistance (HB20-1410) – Because COVID has made the already tight housing market even worse by making it harder to work and earn a living, this bill provides an additional $20 million in rent and mortgage payment assistance for people at risk of losing their homes due to COVID, including $350,000 for legal aid to people facing eviction. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
2020 special session update: another $60 million is available to landlords and renters to help address the continued housing affordability issues created by COVID (SB20B-002).
Utility Assistance (HB20-1412) – People laid off due to COVID may face having essential utilities shut off, but that can harmful or worse during the summer heat, winter cold, or for people with pre-existing health conditions. To help, this bill provides an additional $4.8 million for Low-Income Energy Assistance to support COVID-impacted utility customers. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
2020 special session update: another $5 million is available to help low-income Coloradans cover utility costs in advance of the winter months, when having heat or electricity shut off can be especially dangerous (SB20B-003).
Childcare Assistance (HB20B-1002) – Even before COVID, childcare was costly and sometimes difficult to find, and COVID has made it harder. This bill provides $45 million to help keep existing child care providers going and to help new ones start to expand the number of children who can be cared for, to help parents get back to work. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse Assistance (HB20-1411) – The public health and economic strains of COVID have increased stress and strain on everyone, so this bill provides an additional $15 million to increase availability of counseling and services to help meet increased need. This includes additional services for school-aged children and their parents. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Broadband Access Assistance for P-12 Education (HB20B-1001) – The necessity of remote learning has made reliable broadband access even more important than it was before COVID, but availability and cost are barriers to too many families. This bill makes $20 million available to local school districts to expand access for students and teachers by covering the cost of service plans or providing access devices (e.g. laptops). I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Earned Sick Leave for Employees (SB20-205) – Over 1/3 of Coloradans do not have access to paid sick leave at work, creating pressure to “work while sick” or be unable to pay one’s own bills. As the COVID pandemic continues, this presents a great risk to both workers and the public at large. Starting in 2021, this bill will allow most workers to earn up to 6 days of paid sick leave per year to reduce the tension between working to support oneself and one’s family and running the risk of passing on communicable diseases at the workplace. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Eligible employees begin to accrue earned sick leave 1/1/2021.
Food Assistance (HB20-1422) – Because COVID-related unemployment or under-employment is keeping some families from getting enough to eat, this bill provides an additional $500,000 to food banks and food pantries across the state to help meet increased demand. Where possible, food will be acquired from Colorado farms and agricultural businesses. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
2020 special session update: Another $5 million is available to community food banks to help make sure Coloradans have enough to eat as COVID’s economic impacts continue (HB20B-1003).
Expanded Access to Unemployment Insurance (SB20-170 & SB20-207) – Because many Coloradans have lost their jobs, faced reduced hours, or have feared exposure to COVID upon returning to work, these bills expand eligibility for unemployment insurance. New factors to be considered include separation from work due to public health conditions or caring for a quarantined family member or child unable to attend school due to a public health closure; being immune-compromised; participating in a “work share” program; or surviving domestic violence. I supported these bills. STATUS: signed into law.
Whistleblower Protections for Workers in Public Health Emergencies (HB20-1415) – Being able to return to work safely is critical in recovering from the economic impacts of COVID, so this bill prevents employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who raise good faith concerns about workplace compliance with public health guidance. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Limitations on Debt Collection (SB20-211) – To allow Coloradans to survive the economic hardships created by COVID, this bill increases to $4,000 the amount of savings exempted from debt collections and suspends garnishments, levies, and other debt collection actions until November 1, 2020. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Statewide 2-1-1 Information System (HB20-1197) – Just getting valid and up-to-date information during COVID can be challenging sometimes, so this bill expands the statewide 2-1-1 hotline to provide additional, COVID-related human services information to callers through the end of 2020. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.
Expanded Telehealth (SB20-212) – Being able to access health care through tele-health is more important during COVID than ever, for the safety of both patients and health care providers on the front lines of COVID response. This bill prohibits insurance companies from artificially limiting access to services provided via tele-health, so that Coloradans can receive – and health care workers can deliver – care safely. I supported this bill. STATUS: signed into law.