House committees advance two bills to invest in grant programs that support small businesses and workers affected by the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic
DENVER, CO — Two House committees today advanced state stimulus bills to invest millions in grant programs that seek to support displaced workers and small businesses affected by capacity restrictions and other COVID restrictions. Both bills are a part of the Colorado Comeback state stimulus, a package of legislation that will invest roughly $800 million into helping Colorado recover faster and build back stronger.
“The Energize Gap Fund has already provided more than $25 million to thousands of rural, minority-owned, veteran-owned and women-owned businesses across the state,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “Today we voted to give this program a boost and ensure that Colorado’s entrepreneurs and small business owners can keep their doors open and benefit from the economic boom of the Colorado comeback.”
“At the height of the pandemic last year, the Energize Gap fund provided crucial funds to help keep small businesses afloat for a few months longer,” said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada. “Now, as our economy safely reopens, the fund will provide a needed boost that will help our small businesses rebuild and recover. Colorado will soon be back to normal, and we’re working to ensure the businesses our communities love are there for years to come.”
HB21-1302, sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and Lindsey Daugherty passed the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee by a vote of 8-4. The bill invests $15 million into the COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program, known as the Energize Gap Fund, which was created in 2020 to provide direct financial support to small businesses suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and related public health restrictions.
The successful Energize Gap Fund set out to support as many affected businesses in Colorado as possible, but it specifically prioritized rural businesses and those that are majority owned by veterans, women and minorities. HB21-1302 makes modifications to the program to also prioritize businesses that missed out on the initial cycle of funding, businesses in economically distressed areas and for-profit sole proprietorships. Additionally, if the Energize fund is to receive more funds in the future, preference will be given to businesses that rent or have a mortgage payment for the business premises or where the business resides at the same address at the business premises.
“This session, we’ve been laser focused on helping Colorado build back stronger and creating an economy that leaves no one behind,” said Rep. Cathy Kipp, D-Fort Collins. “As our economy safely reopens, we’re investing in the COSI Displaced Worker Grant to give Coloradans impacted by the pandemic the tools they need to find good, meaningful jobs.”
“Ensuring that Coloradans have the skills they need to thrive in a post pandemic economy is a top priority, and necessary to sustain Colorado’s economic recovery,” said Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster. “COSI’s Displaced Worker Grant has a track record of success, and with these additional funds it will be able to extend its proven support to thousands of workers across the state.”
SB21-232, sponsored by Representatives Cathy Kipp and Shannon Bird, passed committee unanimously. The bill provides $15 million in grants through the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI), which is estimated to serve at least 3,000 Colorado workers across the state who have completed a portion of their higher education but have not earned a credential. The program was established last year to support workers through the worst months of the pandemic. These grants under COSI provide workers who were laid off or furloughed, experienced decreased wages, or had a job offer rescinded with the skills, supports and credentials necessary to secure good jobs. The bill also helps institutions of higher education scale high-demand programs, helping to sustain a resilient state economy.