JOINT RELEASE: General Assembly Dems Demand Federal Relief; Send Letter to Congress

DENVER, CO–– General Assembly Democrats today sent a letter to Congress following Tuesday’s devastating economic and revenue forecast, calling on Congress to prioritize flexible state funding to protect communities from revenue shortfalls caused by COVID-19. 

“Colorado is facing a desperate budgetary situation. With a more than $3 billion deficit, many of our critical programs that Coloradans have come to count on are facing crippling cuts,” said Senator Dominick Moreno, Joint Budget Committee (JBC) Vice-Chair. “We need the federal government to step up and use our tax dollars to bail out people rather than corporations, or we will suffer severe consequences for years to come.” 

“With a severe budget shortfall, we are doing everything we can to protect education and critical health-and-safety services,” said JBC Chair Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo. “We have spent the last several weeks reviewing options for how we can balance the budget responsibly, and it’s clear that without more federal aid, our state will see heartbreaking cuts to essential services. We need our leaders in Washington to come together and support our communities through this crisis.”

The letter asks Congress to pass several bills being supported by members of the Colorado delegation including The Coronavirus Relief for States Act, sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse, Rep. Jason Crow, Rep. Diana DeGette, and Rep. Scott Tipton; as well as The State Operations Stabilization (SOS) Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Perlmutter, Rep. Neguse, and Rep. Crow.

Coloradans can add their name to the letter here.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Members of Congress, 

Our state, like so many others, is experiencing extreme hardship due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Not only have more than 1000 of our residents died of this disease so far, but hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and are in desperate need of assistance.  

However, these are still only the immediate and obvious impacts of the crisis. The longer, more insidious effects are those that will ripple out for years to come, as our state infrastructure crumbles from inadequate funding.

Currently, we are facing a revenue shortfall of at least $3 billion due to the COVID crisis. This represents a massive reduction of our fiscal resources and it spells catastrophe for many of our already-underfunded institutions. Schools, law enforcement offices, health clinics, and correctional facilities all face extreme financial pressures, while literacy, suicide prevention, child welfare, and job training programs will likely need to be eliminated. Urgent transportation projects that would ensure the safety of our roads are also on hold, and public employees face potential pay cuts, furloughs, and benefit reductions. 

These fiscal losses are particularly poised to decimate the people who are helping get us through this crisis––mainly our first responders, healthcare workers, teachers, and state personnel. These professionals have been working tirelessly under immense pressure to cope with the needs of their patients, students, and service users. But now with draining funding reserves, our community servants are set up to receive even less support.

Our situation is devastating and far exceeds that of any downturn we have ever faced. So you can understand our outrage when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would rather let state governments declare bankruptcy than receive more federal funding. He also had the audacity to claim that it’s not Congress’ job to help states who didn’t save for a recession.

This kind of sentiment is unacceptable and blatantly disregards the severity of this crisis. Real people are suffering and more will in the coming weeks, months, and years if we do not receive adequate assistance. 

The federal funding so far, while much appreciated, has come with painful restrictions that prevent state or local governments from fully addressing their dwindling resource pools. So now, after hundreds of billions of tax dollars have gone towards bailing out big business and buying down corporate debt, states are completely unable to care for their own people. 

This issue is further compounded by the fact that COVID’s revenue impacts will last multiple budget cycles, and Colorado is uniquely unable to make up for revenue shortfalls due to TABOR. Our state needs the funding and the flexibility to backfill lost revenue, or we will be left with huge fiscal gaps in essential governmental functions.

Therefore, in recognition of this immense and continuing revenue decline, we seek your help in working to ensure that any forthcoming federal stimulus package addressing the COVID-19 outbreak includes substantial aid for state revenue shortages. 

There are presently three congressional bills we would urge you to support: 
 

The Coronavirus Relief for States Act, sponsored by Rep. Perlmutter, and co-sponsored by Rep. Neguse, Rep. Crow, Rep. DeGette, and Rep. Tipton provides $500 billion to states and tribal governments affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for FY 2020-21. These funds could be used to cover costs accrued from the public health emergency, to replace revenue lost as a result of COVID-19, or to contribute to economic recovery of the state or tribe.The bipartisan proposal for a State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund is set to be formally introduced in the Senate shortly. The bill calls for an additional $500 billion in COVID-19 state stabilization funds to support state and local governments. The funds would be split 3 ways: one-third would be provided to all 50 states and the District of Columbia; one-third to state and local governments based upon the number of COVID-19 cases in each place; and one-third to state and local governments based upon state revenue loss from COVID-19. The State Operations Stabilization (SOS) Act, co-sponsored by Rep. Perlmutter, Rep. Neguse, and Rep. Crow, authorizes a state, tribal government, or unit of local government to use funds made available under the Coronavirus Relief Fund to cover expenditures related to COVID-19 or to reduce a budget deficit due to loss of revenue related to COVID-19.  All three of these initiatives would greatly assist Colorado’s ability to recover and maintain vital services for our residents. Fortunately, some of you have already begun the critical work necessary to secure flexible funding for Colorado, and for that, we are exceedingly grateful.  

Going forward, as Congress begins to consider the next phase of national relief, we implore all of you to protect our state’s future by advocating for such measures. We are currently just over a week away from passing a budget with dire consequences and request that you also act urgently. Colorado will need billions of dollars in direct aid to survive the extreme and continued loss of revenue or we will be forced to cut essential services in the midst of a pandemic and potentially crippling economic recession. 

Thank you for your leadership and continued support. We appreciate you rising to the challenge of today’s unprecedented public health emergency with courage, compassion, and commitment. We hope we can rely on you to secure the resources we need to protect the health and wellbeing of Coloradans and we look forward to working with you to craft our state’s path to recovery. 

Sincerely, 

President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo)
Senator Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder)
Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora)
Senator Mike Foote (D-Lafayette)
Senator Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins)
Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver)
Senator Chris Hansen (D-Denver) 
Senator Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City)
Senator Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood)
Senator Robert Rodriguez (D-Denver)
Senator Tammy Story (D-Golden)
Senator Nancy Todd (D-Aurora)
Senator Angela Williams (D-Denver)
Senator Faith Winter (D-Westminster)
Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada)
Senator Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge)
Senator Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) 

Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder)
Majority Leader Alec Garnett (D-Denver)
Representative Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins)
Representative Shannon Bird (D-Westminster)
Representative Janet Buckner (D-Aurora)
Representative Bri Buentello (D-Pueblo)
Representative Yadira Caraveo (D-Thornton)
Representative James Coleman (D-Denver)
Representative Lisa Cutter (D-Jefferson County)
Representative Monica Duran (D-Wheat Ridge)
Representative Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo)
Representative Tony Exum, Sr. (D-Colorado Springs)
Representative Meg Froelich (D-Englewood)
Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (D-Denver)
Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver)
Representative Edie Hooton (D-Boulder)
Representative Dominique Jackson (D-Aurora)
Representative Sonya Jaquez-Lewis (D- Boulder)
Representative Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood)
Representative Cathy Kipp (D-Fort Collins)
Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada)
Representative Susan Lontine (D-Denver)
Representative Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon)
Representative Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango)
Representative Jovan Melton (D-Aurora
Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City))
Representative Kyle Mullica (D-Northglenn)
Representative Dylan Roberts (D-Avon)
Representative Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont)
Representative Emily Sirota (D-Denver)
Representative Marc Snyder (D-Manitou Springs)
Representative Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial)
Representative Kerry Tipper (D-Lakewood)
Representative Brianna Titone (D-Arvada)
Representative Donald Valdez (D-La Jara)
Representative Mike Weissman (D-Aurora)
Representative Steven Woodrow (D-Denver)
Representative Mary Young (D-Greeley)