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House committees passed four bills Dec. 1 that would give direct assistance to Coloradans and small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic.

The legislation will next be considered on the floor for Second Reading.

“Small businesses have faced some of the most challenging impacts of this crisis, struggling for survival while Washington fails to deliver the relief they desperately need,” SB20B-001 sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) said in a news release from House Democrats. 

“We are doing everything we can to boost small businesses and help them through the winter months ahead until we have a vaccine and Congress passes additional relief. Cultural venues, artists and minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.

"This assistance will help the small businesses that have been hit hardest so that they don’t permanently shutter.”

SB20B-001, sponsored by Herod and Rep. Shane Sandridge, would send $57 million in direct aid, grants and annual fee waivers to struggling small businesses — prioritizing those operating in counties experiencing severe capacity restrictions.

It will also create grant programs and allocate funds specifically for art and cultural organizations as well as minority owned businesses. Capacity limits have severely impacted small businesses across the state — especially bars, restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. This bill will help these industries bridge the gap through difficult winter months ahead. 

SB20B-002, sponsored by Reps. Tony Exum, Sr. and Kerry Tipper, would provide $60 million for emergency housing assistance to landlords and households who are in financial need due to COVID-19.

Of the funding, $1 million will support the Eviction Legal Assistance Fund, which will help Coloradans stay in their homes this winter by providing critical legal assistance for housing related needs.

The impending expiration of federal assistance programs such as enhanced unemployment benefits, leaves millions of Coloradans vulnerable to eviction or foreclosure in the coming months. In fact, according to recent surveys, over 40 percent of Coloradans are living in a household that is behind on their rent or mortgage and at risk of foreclosure or eviction.

Finally, the bill puts in place a provision that seeks to ensure tens of thousands of unemployed Coloradans can continue to have access to the federally funded State Extended Benefits Program through Dec. 26. 

“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 (D-Colorado Springs) said in the release.

“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.” 

SB20B-003, sponsored by Reps. Monica Duran and Lois Landgraf, would appropriate $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund in order to meet the 25 percent increase in applications that Energy Outreach Colorado has seen this year.

As unemployment numbers remain high and federal resources have dried up, many Coloradans are at risk of losing their utilities. 

SB20B-004, sponsored by Rep. Julie McCluskie, would allocate an additional $100 million to ensure the state can continue to protect public health while awaiting additional federal stimulus and reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With many hospitals across Colorado reaching critical capacity in recent weeks, more funds are needed to continue the state’s public health response.

“With promising vaccine trials shining a light on the end of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to ensure our public health systems are able to care for and protect Coloradans in the months ahead,” McCluskie said.