Colorado Legislature eyes small-business, housing relief amid COVID-19 restrictions

Lawmakers also intend to bring support for child-care providers, broadband access for remote school

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As Gov. Jared Polis announced a new round of coronavirus-related restrictions that harken back to the kinds of orders Coloradans saw near the start of the pandemic, the governor announced he would call state lawmakers back to the Capitol in hopes of providing economic relief for Colorado residents and small businesses.

Lawmakers were to come to the Capitol “in the near future” as part of a “special session” of the Legislature called by Polis, according to a Nov. 17 news release. The Legislature's regular session — the roughly four-month period in which bills are passed — typically begins in January.

The final specifics of what the state Legislature will work on were still in the works, according to the news release, but the bills are expected to include the following items:

• Small-business assistance, including “direct aid and tax relief."

• Housing and rental assistance.

• Support for child-care providers.

• Expanding broadband access for students and school staff.

Colorado's new level red of coronavirus-related restrictions is sure to put a strain on the state's economy: Among the new changes are a shutdown of indoor dining at restaurants, a ban on indoor events, and a tightening of capacity limits at some office-based businesses and gyms.

The new round of restrictions comes on the heels of Colorado's COVID-19 hospitalizations hitting the highest levels ever recorded during the pandemic. Colorado's previous record, or “peak,” of COVID-19 patients was 888 in April. As of Nov. 9, more than 1,000 people were in the hospital statewide for COVID-19.

In the absence of new federal action to bring businesses and workers relief, state lawmakers must fill a gap, state House Speaker K.C. Becker, D-Boulder, said in the news release.

“With COVID-19 cases reaching daily new records and winter just around the corner, Coloradans can't wait any longer for Congress to provide relief — they need us to act now to help small businesses, families and students get through the challenging months ahead,” Becker said.

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, the incoming state House Speaker who will take the helm in January, echoed Becker in the news release.

“We need an economic recovery where every Coloradan has a fair shot, but this can't happen if restaurants and bars close, families lose their homes, students can't get online and day care centers shutter,” Garnett said in the release. “We need to act now to bridge the gap where Washington has failed, or our economy will falter.”

Because government is considered an “essential service,” it is exempt from most public health orders, according to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment news release. The state House and Senate can adopt their own rules to govern procedures and enforce compliance by members, according to the release.

CDPHE recommended that the Legislature abide by the following guidance:

• Conduct legislative business remotely as much as possible. 

• Everyone who will be physically present for business at the Capitol, including legislators, security and press, should undergo a health screening and symptom check daily upon arrival.

• Lawmakers and staff should undergo COVID-19 tests before and during the session.

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