Black caucus

Members of the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus who led key bills during the special session are, from left, Rep. Leslie Herod, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Rep. Tony Exum.

The Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus touted its wins from the special session that wrapped up Wednesday, with its members among the highest-profile players in the pandemic relief effort.

Consider:

Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver, who chairs the nine-member caucus, sponsored Senate Bill 1 to provide $47 million in relief to restaurants, bars, eateries, cultural venues and minority-owned businesses.

Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, the vice chair, sponsored Senate Bill 3 to make available $5 million to help Coloradans pay their utility bills.

Rep. Tony Exum Sr. of Colorado Springs led Senate Bill 2 to provide $60 million for housing assistance and direct emergency assistance o those experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic.

All of the key bills had bipartisan support on their way to the governor's desk.

“Small businesses, minority-owned businesses and artists in our state are suffering from a lack of support during one of the most trying economic crises in recent history,” Herod said in a statement Thursday.

“They are doing their part to keep our communities healthy by abiding by the COVID pandemic restrictions and should receive the necessary funds to stay open. It is time that we do all that we can to support them. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 faced by artists and small/minority-owned businesses is a massive wrong that needs to be righted before they are forced to close for good.”

The caucus noted that 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed during the pandemic against 22% of White-owned businesses.

“As unemployment numbers remain high and federal resources continue to dwindle, many Coloradans are at risk of losing their utilities – a dangerous outcome in the winter months,” Fields stated.

She said the money would help offset a 25% spike in requests to the Energy Outreach Colorado.

Exum noted that Senate Bill 2 includes $1 million for the Eviction Legal Assistance Fund, which the caucus said in a press release will help "tremendously benefit Black households who are more likely to experience eviction."

“Thousands of Coloradans are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage and are facing agonizing decisions every day about which bills to pay and how to avoid being thrown out of their homes,” Exum said in the statement. “There is an astounding need for housing assistance to help Coloradans bridge the gap and avoid eviction or foreclosure. This assistance will directly help the Coloradans who have been hit hardest by this pandemic so they aren’t left behind as our state recovers.”

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