In an unusual joint letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate, Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner are requesting updates to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that include greater loan amounts to businesses, more emergency funding for state and local governments, and an increase in food assistance.
Officially titled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Congress passed the law on March 27 as the third and costliest measure responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the features were enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, a $1,200 transfer to most adults, and a paycheck protection program for businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
For the latter program, businesses will receive loans to keep employees on their payroll. If they do so, the government will forgive the loan after eight weeks, although there are qualifications to that forgiveness. Polis and the senators requested the program be broadened in several areas to allow healthcare facilities, franchises and affiliated businesses like fitness clubs to participate.
“Increase the program appropriations and the loan amount to 4 times average monthly payroll (permitting those that already have loans to increase their loan amount to reach that level) for firms that have suffered significant revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the officials requested in their letter. They also asked that mortgage principal payments and inventory expenses be eligible uses of the loans.
The requests also included $500 billion for state and local governments to plug budget shortfalls and for Congress to funnel additional money to hospitals. Finally, the men wrote that they were “deeply disturbed by the severe deprivation so many families are experiencing, manifested in scenes of hours-long lines at food banks across the country.” They asked for a 15% increase to food assistance benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, continuing until “pre-crisis conditions” are restored.