The General Assembly approved a COVID-19 relief package of 10 bills on Wednesday, ending a three-day extraordinary session that Gov. Jared Polis called just two weeks prior.
The assistance measures, which ranged from providing support to child care operators and food pantries to capping fees charged for food delivery, amounting to approximately $280 million in funding.
“Coronavirus is real. It is deadly,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, on the final day of debate. “We know that the state of Colorado can do better — can and must do better — to keep people alive. But we also have to do our part to support these small businesses and pull together money from various places to provide as much support as we can.”
Polis’ call for a special session outlined seven areas for the legislature to take action: small business, child care, housing aid, broadband, food insecurity, utilities assistance and public health response.
Among other items, the governor specifically asked lawmakers to appropriate money for the disaster emergency fund, allow restaurants and bars to retain up to $2,000 per month in sales tax revenue, and enhance Internet access for educators and school children — all of which the General Assembly did.
The measures headed to the governor’s desk are as follows:
House Bill 1001 will provide $20 million to create a broadband grant program for school districts to expand Internet access. Money must be distributed by Feb. 1.
House Bill 1002 authorizes $45 million in grants to operators of child care centers through two separate programs. The first covers expenses for existing operators and the second will assist businesses that are expanding or just starting up. The state must award grants by Feb. 28.
House Bill 1003 provides $5 million to food pantries, with the state needing to send out the money by March 31.
House Bill 1004 allows restaurants, bars and vintners to deduct $70,000 of net sales from their taxes, resulting in a retention of approximately $2,000 per month in sales tax revenue for each retailer, up to a limit of five sites. The bill allows retention for November through February.
House Bill 1005 gives authority to counties and municipalities to cap fees that third-party food delivery companies charge to restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also prevents those companies from cutting the compensation or tips of employees to make up for lost revenue and requires them to disclose to customers any fees or commissions imposed on the restaurants.
House Bill 1006 adjusts several requirements of insurance premium tax payments, intended to make estimates of taxes owed more accurate.
Senate Bill 1 provides $37 million in relief to small businesses with revenue of less than $2.5 million; $7.5 million to arts and cultural organizations; and $4 million to minority-owned businesses. Grants for small businesses are capped at $7,000, and counties must disburse payments by Feb. 12.
Senate Bill 2 grants $54 million in emergency housing assistance, $1 million in legal eviction aid, and $5 million to individuals who are ineligible for other forms of relief, such as unemployment insurance, food assistance or the onetime $1,200 payment from the federal government.
Senate Bill 3 gives $5 million to Energy Outreach Colorado, a nonprofit that provides assistance to low income households in paying energy bills. It must spend the money by June 30.
Senate Bill 4 transfers $100 million to the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund for the governor to use for the Disaster Emergency Fund. The bill is intended to fill the gap left by the slow reimbursement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs the state has incurred.