The stimulus headed to lawmakers during the upcoming special session is a subset of the $1.3 billion stimulus package included in Gov. Jared Polis’ proposed 2021-22 budget.
The pieces include tax relief for restaurants and bars hit hard by COVID-19 capacity limits. A second piece will deal with child care; a third is rental assistance that will go to both tenants and landlords. A fourth piece, about $20 million, will help K-12 students with Internet access, to include mobile hot spots. Additional items, based on his Nov. 19 executive order for the special session, include food and utility assistance and more funding for the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action,” the governor said. The legislation in the special session will help Colorado families and businesses bridge the months ahead until the vaccines are ready for distribution, he added.
Colorado’s recovery could hinge on the next few months, and targeting relief now will have the greatest effect, Garnett said. Speaker of the House-elect Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat, addressed the “why now?” question, given that the 2021 session of the General Assembly is just two months away.
“January will be too late” for many small businesses, restaurants and bars, and for Coloradans on the brink of eviction and foreclosure, and echoing a refrain heard from legislators and the governor, “we cannot wait for Congress to act,” Garnett said.
The special session legislation will be paid for with better-than-expected revenues reported in the September revenue forecast.
Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat who sits on the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), told Colorado Politics before the Nov. 17 news conference that the governor’s proposal is a way to help businesses and families get through the winter. Hansen said the focus will be on how quickly that money can get into the hands of those who need it most.
“That’s the top of our minds as we consider different stimulus” proposals, Hansen said. “We can’t start new programs or build something from scratch. It has to be something already in motion, and that will certainly come out in the final proposals.”
The package, and the special session to pass it, also satisfies calls by lawmakers for more transparency in how money tied to the pandemic is being spent, according to Republican Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, the JBC’s senior member. Rankin pointed out that the minority party has asked for transparency and legislative involvement in the spending of relief funds, and that the special session satisfies that request.
Rankin, however, believes that it might not be clear what money is available to pay for the special session stimulus legislation until the December revenue forecast comes out, due around Dec. 20.