COVID-19 Relief Bills Advance

House passes relief funds for food pantries, expansion of UI benefits, and protections against extraordinary debt collections 

DENVER, CO — The House has approved four bills that would help hardworking Coloradans make ends meet as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bills would support food pantries, expand unemployment insurance benefits, help survivors of domestic violence and protect Coloradans from extraordinary debt collection practices, such as wage garnishment. 

HB20-1422: Coronavirus Relief Funds for Food Pantry Assistance (Reps. Daneya Esgar and Lisa Cutter): Demand for food assistance is rising at an extraordinary rate, just as the nation’s food banks are being struck by shortages of food to meet the demand. The bill creates a food pantry assistance grant program and allocates $500,000 to support Colorado’s most vulnerable across the state and to create new market opportunities for Colorado agricultural products. The bill passed 56-9. 

“We’re focused on how we can help hardworking Coloradans make ends meet,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “Many in our state are relying on food pantries, but these critical community organizations are also struggling to meet the demand. This bill will help our food pantries protect our most vulnerable and create new opportunities for Colorado’s agriculture producers.” 

SB20-207: Unemployment Insurance Expansion (Reps Matt Gray and Tom Sullivan): Expands eligibility for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers who have seen their hours reduced and increases the benefits workers can receive. It also allows workers who fear for their safety if they return to work to apply for UI benefits. The bill passed 41-24. 

“Unemployment claims are at record highs and hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced,” said Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial. “Our small businesses and our economy will continue to struggle if Coloradans can barely scrape together enough money for rent and basic needs. This bill helps prevent hardworking families from falling further behind by allowing Coloradans to continue to work part time and still receive critical support.” 

SB20-170 Update Colorado Employment Security Act (Reps. Jackson and Duran): The bill makes it easier for domestic violence victims and siblings who are primary caretakers to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Currently the law requires those who are forced to leave their jobs due to domestic violence  jump through burdensome administrative hoops to receive benefits. SB20-170 removes these hurdles and supports those suffering from abuse. The bill passed 41-24.

“The pandemic is leading to an increase in domestic violence, and there’s more we can do to protect survivors and provide the resources they need,” said Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “That’s why we’re putting federal CARES Act funding towards domestic violence programs and making it easier for survivors to receive unemployment benefits if their workplace is unsafe.”

SB20-211 Limitations on Extraordinary Collection Actions (Rep. Herod): The bill expands the ability of the Attorney General to provide oversight of extraordinary debt collection actions, like wage garnishment. The Attorney General would also have the ability to freeze new actions, establish a minimum grace period for payments to resume, and require that monthly payment amounts consider a consumer’s ability to repay. The bill passed 41-24. 

“Coloradans are struggling to keep from falling behind; now is not the time for aggressive and counter productive debt collection tactics that force families further into hardship,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. 

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