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 on second reading
DENVER, CO – The House today advanced several bills included in the Democratic package of COVID relief legislation on second reading. 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 .
“Colorado’s small businesses and hardworking families are hurting, and we’re committed to taking the steps we need to get everyone in Colorado back on track responsibly,” said Rep. Cutter, D-Jefferson County, sponsor of HB20-1413 and HB20-1412. “The small business recovery loans we approved today will go a long way towards supporting Colorado’s entrepreneurs and business owners as they bounce back from this crisis and help our economy recover. Meanwhile, we’re providing Colorado families with direct assistance to help them keep the lights on and make ends meet.”
“It’s unacceptable that certain bad actors are charging exorbitant prices for necessary goods as hardworking Coloradans rebuild after the COVID-19 crisis,” said Brianna Rep. Titone, D-Arvada, sponsor of HB20-1414. “This bill will create a pathway for the state to crack down on unfair practices and ensure Coloradans don’t face yet another hurdle on the path to recovery.”
“My constituents and hardworking Coloradans across the state are worried about how they’ll be able to make ends meet and stay in their homes,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of HB20-1410. “Today the House advanced a proposal that will provide these families with millions in direct housing assistance during these uncertain times.”
“While COVID19 has brought enormous physical health challenges that we’re all keenly aware of, it is imperative that we also take on the behavioral health effects of this crisis,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, sponsor of HB20-1411. “Mental health and substance use programs need our support more than ever. I’m proud that we moved forward on this proposal to channel federal dollars towards supporting Coloradans who have felt the devastating behavioral health impacts of this pandemic.”
“Public health is a collective effort, and we need workers to feel empowered to bring attention to workplace conditions that could put the health and safety of Coloradans at risk,” said Rep. Sullivan, D-Centennial, sponsor of HB20-1415. “As we work to get Colorado back to work as safely and responsibly as possible, we want workers to know that we’ll have their backs if they choose to speak out.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.