The state's congressional delegation have heralded most of the large allocations of stimulus money headed to Colorado.
The bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was the latest step to bail out the U.S. economy and more than 26 million Americans put out a job because of the global pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Boulder County, reported his intentions Wednesday in real time, tweeting, "Heading to the House floor to vote for relief for small businesses & to scale up testing nationwide. But let's be clear, Congress must do MORE to secure emergency relief for working families and our small cities and towns. Which is why I’ll keep fighting for it."
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, backed the bill that puts another $310 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, $50 billion more for disaster lending and $10 billion more for emergency grants.
“While some small businesses in our community were able to access the Paycheck Protection Program, many more were shut out," DeGette said in a statement released by the House Democrats. "Let’s be clear: large corporations never should have been allowed to receive funds meant for small businesses.
“We must ensure this new round of funding goes to those businesses most in need. Countless American jobs — and lives — are on the line.”
The legislation passed 388-5, with U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Windsor, was among the dissenters, saying reckless spending could bankrupt America.
“We are engaged in a bipartisan bankruptcy of this country," stated Buck, who also serves as chairman of the state Republican Party. "We will not heal our communities and put an end to this crisis by throwing trillions of dollars at an economy chained by a government-mandated quarantine.
"We cannot continue to push through rapid-fire spending packages that leave a massive debt burden on our children and grandchildren. Our constituents deserve representatives who will do their job and stand up for the American taxpayer in good times and in bad.”
His no vote put the former Weld County district attorney on the same side as New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the bill didn't go far enough. Buck told the Western Conservative Summit in Denver last year that AOC was one of his favorite Democrats.
Buck said he would have supported targeted funding for small businesses, workers and healthcare providers who are struggling, "but passing a half-trillion-dollar spending bill through Congress without committee consideration or a chance to submit amendments evades the responsibility we have to the American people as members of Congress," he said.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, focused on $500 billion more for small businesses, health care, hospitals and expanded testing.
He accused Democrats of delaying the bill with a "radical wish list," but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prevailed.
“The Paycheck Protection Program has helped small businesses keep their workers on the payroll," Lamborn stated. "It is vital to getting our nation’s economy back on track. This bill will provide crucial funding to aid our small businesses and prevent more Americans from becoming unemployed.
"It also provides additional funding to our hospitals that are on the front lines fighting the COVID19 pandemic and it provides funds for expanding testing and research. This replenished funding should help the small businesses who have been stuck in the process of applying for PPP and Economic Injury Disaster loans receive funding swiftly. My office will continue working with our constituents and federal agencies to get help to those who need it.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Arvada, called replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program a must-do.
“This bill reaffirms the support of Congress for families across the country as we get through this crisis," he said in a statement. "It provides an additional $100 billion to support healthcare providers and invests in a testing infrastructure to help our communities reopen with the best available data and protections. More support will be needed, which is why work has already begun on another package.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Aurora, testified in favor of the package before the House Small Business Committee about the needs of small business programs and potential abuse by publicly traded companies, his office said.
“This bill is good, but it is not enough," Crow said in a statement. "Our small businesses needed assistance weeks ago and we still don’t have the funding we need for our state and local governments.
“Over the past six weeks, I have heard countless stories from Coloradans worried about the health and safety of them and their loved ones, scared about how they are going to stay afloat as the economy crumbles, and frustrated by leaders in this administration who continue to buck science. History is watching us and it is time Senator McConnell and President Trump put politics aside to protect the American people in this critical moment.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, testified to the same committee Thursday.
He said small businesses, especially hospitals, need help covering payroll.
“I have heard from at least two rural hospitals in my district that were approved for PPP loans and received the funds, but who have subsequently been cautioned by their attorneys against using those funds in the event they are deemed ineligible for the PPP program." he told the committee. "Rural hospitals operate on extremely thin margins, and the PPP would be a lifeline for many of them.
"Unfortunately, because there has been a lack of clear guidance from the SBA, and the interim funding package was silent on this issue, county and district-owned hospitals are in limbo,” said Tipton. “We need clarity on this issue now, because we cannot afford for rural hospitals to close their doors in the midst of this pandemic.”
Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, said he was pleased the bill passed but disappointed that it didn't go far enough to help rural hospitals.
"This bipartisan agreement will provide much-needed additional support to small businesses, hospitals, and efforts to ramp up testing and contact tracing," he said. "We fought hard to secure funding in this package for unbanked and underserved small businesses and nonprofits, dedicated support for rural health clinics, and resources to help ramp up testing and contact tracing.
“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, I’m disappointed that the agreement doesn’t include specific funding to help struggling rural hospitals or funding for state, tribal, and local governments, which face revenue shortfalls that could jeopardize essential programs for public health and safety. There is bipartisan support for both of these efforts, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t be included in a future relief package."
Bennet's office said Thursday that $3.2 million is headed to Colorado’s rural hospitals as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Congress passed last month.
The money will go to the Colorado Rural Health Center for support and resources for 39 hospitals and other rural facilities and organizations across the state.
“While I’m glad to see these dollars on their way to Colorado, for the many rural providers who were already in debt prior to the coronavirus outbreak, this is only a fraction of the support they need," Bennet stated. "We’ll keep working to sustain these providers for the long haul so that they can continue to serve their communities through and beyond this pandemic.”
Before the pandemic, 18 rural Colorado hospitals were operating in the red "and with our current crisis this financial challenge has increased significantly," Rural Health Center CEO Michelle Mills said in a statement.