Gov. Jared Polis on Monday morning put his name on a package of bills the legislature passed to help Colorado recover from the worst global health crisis in a century.
Polis applauded lawmakers' work on money that's needed right away and called for another round of federal stimulus money soon.
"I know that just as we showed Colorado has managed the first round efficiently, effectively, in a bipartisan way, we can be confident that when there is another round of support, I'm optimistic Colorado will once again rise to the occasion and be able to make sure those resources reach those who need them the most," the governor said in the garden at Boettcher Mansion in Denver Monday morning.
Legislators gathered behind him as they directed the spending of mostly federal dollars.
"This is a response to your pain," Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, said to Coloradans watching over Facebook, citing a myriad of unexpected challenges still ahead for many, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
The effort was about prioritizing people who often get overlooked, she said.
Added state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Democrat from Lakewood, "In Colorado we made sure to prioritize funding these supports."
The 71st Colorado General Assembly completed its abbreviated session on Monday, marked by masks, protests outside the building and angst over losing ground on programs and priorities.
"This is a collection of bills that weren't on our agenda in January," said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Democrat from Boulder.
He said, "At this heart of it, this started as a public health crisis, (but) we continue to realize that it very quickly turned into an economic crisis, and it's affecting so many people across the state."
Fenberg said the package was "just the beginning," to be followed by hard policy discussion and collaborations ahead to address the future.
The package includes:
House Bill 1410, provides $20 million to help with rent and home payments, including $350,000 for the eviction defense fund.
"When people are in their houses and secure with their mortgages it helps the economy," said Rep. Tony Exum Sr., a Democrat from Colorado Springs who sponsored the bill.
House Bill 1412, provides $5 million for utility bill payment-related assistance.
"This bill in particular addresses a really basic need," Rep. Lisa Cutter. "... That's really what Colorado needed."
House Bill 1197, provides $500,000 for the 2-1-1 statewide human services referral system for bilingual speakers, which increased 195% during the crisis.
"It's really a lifeline for Colorado and the people who use that service," said Rep. Janice Rich, a Republican from Grand Junction
Added another bill sponsor, Sen. Marc Snyder, a Democrat from Manitou Springs: "For people who don't know where to go, it's a first step to get the services they need."
House Bill 1411, provides $15.2 million for behavioral health programs.
"It's amazing that we have this bill today and that we have finally brought substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment into one bill that is truly a behavioral health care package," said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Adams County, one of the bill's sponsors.
"COVID-19 may not make all of us physically ill, but every single one of us will have a mental health impact in one way or another from this disease."
House Bill 1422, provides $500,000 to help food pantries get healthy, nutritional supplies from Colorado farmers.
"It's a bill we started talking about long before COVID even hit, the need to make sure we're getting funding to these food pantries that can work directly with our Colorado farmers and ranchers to make sure that not only are we getting enough food in our food pantries but connecting them with healthy foods that's grown right here in Colorado," said Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Democrat from Pueblo, who sponsored the bill.
House Bill 1417, which makes sure $70 million in CARES Act is spent efficiently and effectively.
"I think we all owe a debt of gratitude for our federal government for stepping up a time when we know not just Colorado but every state in the United States needs it," Polis said before signing the legislation.