Committee passes legislation to provide, housing, utility, and behavioral health assistance; protect consumers from outrageous price gouging
DENVER, CO — The House Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs today advanced four bills to provide direct assistance to hardworking families and improve access to essential needs, such as housing, utilities and behavioral health care.
“Coloradans expect their leaders to deliver results, and that’s why I’m fighting to provide direct assistance to hardworking families to help them make ends meet,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “With COVID-19 upending the lives of Coloradans all across our state, we’re channeling $20 million directly to families to help them afford to stay in their homes.”
“Workers are footing the bill for essential protective equipment while some companies continue to charge exorbitant prices for masks and other necessary items without justification,” said Brianna Rep. Titone, D-Arvada. “Coloradans are trying to rebuild their lives and can’t afford to pay outrageous prices for essential goods and services. It’s time to give our state the tools we need to crack down on these deceptive and unfair practices that hurt Coloradans.”
“Too many hardworking families are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet, which is why we’re directing $10 million in federal funding to lower utility bills and help Coloradans get through this crisis,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “We’re focused on how we can make a real impact and help our state get back on its feet.”
“These are challenging times, and we’re seeing an enormous increase in the demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. “I am grateful we will be able to use federal CARES Act funding to bolster our state’s behavioral health capacity so that more Coloradans can access the care they need.”
HB20-1410: Coronavirus Relief Funds for Housing Cash Assistance (Reps. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Tony Exum, Sens. Julie Gonzales and Rachel Zenzinger): Housing security for both renters and homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential to preserving the health and economic security of Colorado families. The bill provides $20 million in direct rental and mortgage assistance to Coloradans experiencing a financial need during these turbulent times, including $350,000 for legal aid for renters at risk of eviction. Passed 6-3
HB20-1411: Coronavirus Relief Funds for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment (Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Tracy Kraft-Tharp, Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Rhonda Fields): The need for behavioral health services are compounded by the challenges associated with COVID-19 and the more than half a million individuals who have filed for unemployment in Colorado. Young people have been especially impacted–teachers are reporting an increased need for mental health support for students struggling with schooling at home. The bill allocates $15 million to critical mental health programs and substance abuse treatment within the Colorado Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health and Environment. Passed 8-1.
HB20-1412: Coronavirus Relief Funds for Utilities (Reps. Chris Kennedy and Lisa Cutter, Sens. Tammy Story and Rachel Zenzinger): While most utilities have implemented a moratorium on utility disconnections, the moratoriums do not address the difficulty that a household facing economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will have paying its utility bill once a utility’s disconnection moratorium is lifted. The bill allocates $10 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, which helps low-income Coloradans who are at risk of having their service shut off. Passed 6-3.
HB20-1414: Protections Against Price Gouging (Reps. Mike Weissman and Brianna Titone, Senators Brittany Pettersen and Mike Foote): Unfortunately, during times of emergency unscrupulous individuals sometimes try to take advantage of scarcity to raise prices on necessary goods to exorbitant levels. This bill establishes that a person engages in an unfair or unconscionable act or practice if they increase the cost of certain necessary goods or services an excessive amount, and empowers the Attorney General or local District Attorneys to enforce these consumer protections. Passed 6-3.