Bills to boost small businesses, provide direct housing and utility assistance, protect workers from retaliation and prevent outrageous price gouging on essential goods passed the House.
DENVER, CO – The House today passed several bills included in the Democratic package of COVID relief legislation. The bills included proposals to establish a small business recovery loan fund, prevent price gouging, provide housing and utility assistance to hardworking Coloradans, and protect against retaliation on workers who raise public health concerns.
“We came into these last few weeks of the legislative session vowing to pass legislation that helps Coloradans rebuild their lives as we recover from this pandemic, and today we’re delivering on that promise,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, sponsor of HB20-1413 and HB20-1412. “From ensuring small businesses have the tools they need for continued success, to giving direct assistance to hardworking Coloradans who need it, we’re making sure that our state is primed for a full recovery.”
“Renters and homeowners alike have faced unique challenges due to COVID-19, and today we voted to provide them with the direct assistance they need to make rent and stay in their homes,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of HB20-1410. “This bill will go a long way towards providing some economic security for the hardworking Coloradans who need it most.”
“Even though COVID-19 may not affect us all physically, every one of us is feeling the emotional effects of the pandemic,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, sponsor of HB20-1411. “For those with substance use issues or pre-existing mental health challenges, the impact has only been that much worse. Today the House voted to put much-needed dollars towards proven solutions to these behavioral health challenges. We need it now more than ever.”
“Hardworking Coloradans who are recklessly exposed to health and safety risks by their employers should feel comfortable speaking out without fear of job loss or retribution,” said Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, sponsor of HB20-1415. “Our whistleblower bill will give these workers the peace of mind they deserve, and will ensure safe and healthy work environments for the general public as we work to get our state back on track.”
“Charging exorbitant prices for necessary goods during a crisis is unconscionable, and I’m glad we gave the Attorney General the tools to go after bad actors today,” said Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, sponsor of HB20-1414 “We understand that supply chains can be affected and prices can fluctuate during emergency events, but we’ve seen egregious examples of outright price gouging in the last few months. This behavior has no place in Colorado and we’re working to put an end to it”
HB20-1413: Small Business Recovery Loans (Reps. Shannon Bird and Lisa Cutter, Sens. Rachel Zenzinger and Kerry Donovan): Colorado’s small businesses are critical to our state economy and too many are struggling to pay their employees or their bills during this public health emergency. This bill establishes a small business recovery loan fund that consists of $250 million of state and private dollars for first loss capital on loans to small businesses over the next two fiscal years. This establishment of this fund will help stimulate loans to Colorado small businesses and support the state’s economic recovery and resiliency. The bill passed 43-18.
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. The bill passed 40-23.
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. The bill passed 46-17.
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. The bill passed 40-22.
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. The bill passed 39-23.
HB20-1415: Whistleblower Protection for Public Health Emergencies (Reps. Leslie Herod and Tom Sullivan, Senator Pettersen): The vast majority of businesses are being responsible to keep people safe during this pandemic, but there are workers who have been fired simply because they raised concerns about safety procedures in their workplace. This policy protects workers who raise health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic from retaliation and requires employers to allow their workers to wear personal protective equipment, such as masks. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is charged with managing complaints. The bill passed 38-24.