Budget integrity, workforce development, support for unhoused individuals, state park investments, food bank funding, and economic relief all move forward
DENVER, CO– The House today advanced several Colorado Comeback bills that will create jobs and help Colorado recover stronger by investing in workforce development initiatives, improving our state parks, expanding nutrition assistance, and ensuring Colorado’s budget is positioned to support the future growth of the state.
SB21-027, sponsored by Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Kerry Tipper, would help new and recent parents care for their children by ensuring that diaper essentials are available to all low-income families in Colorado. The bill provides $4 million for this purpose and asks the Colorado Department of Human Services to contract with nonprofit organizations to administer diaper distribution centers. Despite the high cost of diapers and estimates that show about 1 in 3 U.S. families report needing more diapers, diapers cannot be purchased through public assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Woman, Infants, and Children program (WIC). The bill was amended to include $5 million in food pantry assistance that will be financed with federal ARPA funds.
SB21-242, sponsored by Representatives Steven Woodrow and Serena Gonzales Gutierrez, provides $30 million in federal funding for grants and loans for local governments and nonprofits to purchase underutilized hotels, underutilized motels and other underutilized properties for the purpose of providing shelter or affordable housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. Grant recipients, local governments and nonprofits are encouraged to invest in hotels and motels that are women and minority-owned, as well as those that are ADA compliant. The legislation also provides direct assistance to workers who were unable to receive prior federal and state relief.
“Communities across Colorado are struggling to help people who are unhoused to find affordable places to live so they can get back on their feet,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “There are a lot of properties that could easily be converted into stable housing options. The bill we advanced today will channel $30 million in federal resources to provide shelter for Coloradans who need it, and it will provide direct assistance to workers who have been unable to receive pandemic relief in order to help more people avoid homelessness.”
HB21-1330, sponsored by Representative Julie McCluskie and Naquetta Ricks, uses federal funds to provide a $50 million boost to the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative. The funding will increase access to robust pathways for workers to obtain news skills, earn higher wages and be prepared for the in-demand careers of the future. The bill seeks to rebuild and revitalize the state’s workforce by supporting students to complete their postsecondary credentials. The funding boost will be used to reverse the significant decline in enrollment in public higher education institutions, high rates of job loss and continuing unemployment, and the overall disruption to the workforce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also provides $1.5 million in grant funding to school districts to increase the number of students who complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) student aid applications before graduating high school.
“As a refugee, I know firsthand that Colorado holds tremendous opportunities for people who work hard to build successful careers and thrive,” said Rep. Naquetta Ricks, D-Aurora. “For too many Coloradans, however, the American Dream is becoming harder to achieve, and the pandemic has only set them back. The bill we advanced today will direct $50 million in federal funds to help workers and students complete degree and skills certificate programs so they can learn critical skills, find and fill good jobs, and bounce back stronger.”
HB21-1326, sponsored by Representatives Barbara McLachlan and Perry Will, would invest $25 million in federal funds to improve Colorado state parks. The bill provides:
- $750,000 to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to support backcountry avalanche safety programs;
- $3.5 million to the Division of Parks and Wildlife to implement its statewide wildlife action plan and the conservation of native species;
- $2.25 million to the search and rescue fund for use by the Department of Local Affairs in consultation with the division to support backcountry search and rescue efforts;
- $1 million to the outdoor equity fund for use by the division to implement the outdoor equity grant program;
- $17.5 million for state park staffing and maintenance and infrastructure and development projects.
SB21-288, sponsored by Majority Leader Esgar and Representative Alex Valdez, creates the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) 2021 Cash Fund to hold the funding the state is receiving from the federal act. It also details how the fund will operate.
“The legislature is listening to our communities and charting a responsible course to spend federal stimulus funds in a way that ensures the voices of diverse stakeholders across Colorado are included,” said Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver. “This bill ensures we spend these resources consistent with what our communities expressed during the statewide listening tour. Colorado is going to set an example for how to put federal resources to use to make transformational changes that help our state recover faster and build back stronger.”
SB21-289, sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and Shannon Bird, creates the Revenue Loss Restoration Cash Fund, which will hold $1 billion of the federal funds to fortify the state budget and maintain fiscal integrity as Colorado bounces back. The funds will be deployed in future budget years to support critical priorities, such as K-12 education, housing, seniors, state parks and agriculture programs. The funds essentially buy down future obligations now to bolster the long-term health of Colorado’s state budget.
“One of the most responsible ways we can use federal stimulus funds is to buy down future budget items now–that way as our state grows, we’ll be able to protect funding for K-12 education, housing, seniors, state parks and critical government services,” said Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster. “The $1 billion we’re saving now will help Colorado build back stronger over the long-run and ensure we have the resources we need to sustain our recovery.”
SB21-291, sponsored by Representatives Dylan Roberts and Kevin Van Winkle, creates the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund to respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic. It allocates $848 million for economic stimulus and relief initiatives that will be recommended through a robust interim committee process involving a diverse set of stakeholders from across the state. Additionally, it directs $40 million to the Strategic Fund in the Office of Economic Development and International Trade in order to incentivise companies to create jobs in Colorado and small businesses to relocate to rural Colorado.
“While we are thankful for the significant federal relief that has come to Colorado, we know that many businesses are still struggling to get back to where they were before COVID-19,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “This important bill will allow us to take the next six to eight months to see where there are gaps in the existing relief and tailor policies that will help as many businesses and workers as possible.”
SB21-243, sponsored by Representative Julie McCluskie, directs $21 million in federal funds toward the state’s emergency public health response.