Colorado's special legislative session on COVID-19 relief will begin on Monday, Nov. 30 at 10 a.m., according to an executive order issued by Gov. Jared Polis late Thursday — the same day he said he was looking at a $300-400 million stimulus package, up from the $200 million figure he gave Tuesday.
While the executive order doesn't set a specific budget amount, Polis told Robert Costa of the Washington Post on Thursday during a live-streamed interview that he's looking at a more expensive package than originally announced at a Tuesday news conference, where he threw out a figure of around $200 million.
The stimulus package will address seven areas of need, including three not previously disclosed, according to a press release from the governor's office. The areas of previously identified relief are:
- Small business tax breaks and direct assistance: Under the executive order, direct aid would be made available to businesses impacted by capacity limits, including gyms, restaurants, bars, arts and culture venues and event-related businesses. In addition, emergency sales tax relief would go to "public health order-impacted eating and drinking establishments," allowing them to retain up to $2,000 per month of the 2.9% gross sales tax they already collect. The aid would include a third part: waiver of licensing fees associated with the sale of liquor, and fees "associated with the establishment or operation of a retail food establishment."
- Housing and rental assistance: Renters and landlords would receive assistance through existing programs within the Department of Local Affairs' Division of Housing, such as the Property Owner Preservation program and the Emergency Housing Assistance program. The order also points to assistance through the Housing Counseling Assistance Program, a joint operation between the state and Brothers Redevelopment, and the nonprofit Left Behind Workers Fund.
- Relief for child care providers: Assistance would come through existing sustainability grants in the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) for current child care providers and support for startup or expansions costs for child care providers in child care deserts or other areas of the state hard hit by COVID-19.
- Internet access for education: The order calls for "expanding broadband and Wi-Fi access for educational purposes for P-12 students and teachers."
The areas not previously disclosed include:
- Support for the food pantry assistance program within CDHS that would go to food pantries and food banks.
- Assistance with utility bills. Coloradans hit by financial hardship from the pandemic would be able to tap help from the state's Energy Outreach Colorado low-income energy assistance program.
- Additional funding for the state's Disaster Emergency Fun for public health expenses.
The special session will be Polis' first since becoming governor in 2019. The call does not set a limit on the number of days of the session. But, traditionally, lawmakers try to move through a special session in the bare minimum three days.
The last special session, called by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, came with a daily price tag of about $25,400. However, at that time, lawmakers were making less per year than they do now, the result of a salary increase that begin in January, 2019 that boosted pay from $30,000 to $40,242 per year.